Wl LLY LE Y
A. J. OFFUTT
And Other Stories
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OF ALL THINGS
WITH no place to put mail, the
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— but if it turns out that you like
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keep replenishing the supply, there
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have the guiltily selfish feeling of
not being able to share. Just take
a look at this hoard.
Name Withheld, N.Y., sent us
an 1872 list of rules for teachers:
A. Teachers each day will fill lamps,
clean chimneys, and trim wicks.
B. Each teacher will bring a bucket of
water and a scuttle of coal for the day's
C. Make your pens carefully. You may
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evenings a week if they go to church
E. After ten hours in school, the teach-
ers should spend the remaining time
reading the Bible or other good books.
F. Women teachers who marry or en-
gage in unseemly conduct will be dis-
G. Every teacher should lay aside from
each pay a goodly sum of his earnings
for his benefit during his declining years
so that he will not become a burden on
H. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor
in any form, frequents pool or public
halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will
give good reason to suspect his worth, in-
tentions, integrity, and honesty.
I. The teacher who performs his labors
faithfully and without fault for five years
will be given an increase of 25£ per
week in his pay, providing the Board of
V Winifred Northrun
Name Withheld adds : "I'd hate
having to share the Earth with
Miss Northrun. I can't say I'd like
having ever-young flappers or bob-
by-soxers around any better. Let's
not jump into this immortality
thing, shall we?"
All right, but let's not put it off
till every last little bug is worked
As a courtesy to Fritz Lang, who
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the Moon" and other early science
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Director, P.O. Box 247, Corte
Quite some time back this de-
partment assembled evidence that
There Are Aliens Among Us. Here
is further evidence sent in by read-
James J. Davidson, Haddon-
field, N. J.: "In the March 1958
issue of Scientific American ap-
peared an advertisement by Amer-
ican Optical Co., Instrumentation
Division, concerning their micro-
scopes, that read in part : ' You can
adapt the Microstar to your exact
needs with various combinations of
interchangeable bodies, stages,
bases and optics . . . Choice of 3 in-
terchangeable full 360° rota table
bodies, monocular, binocular, and
trinocular; inclined for comfort . . .'
Inclined how for whose comfort?
Not mine — though I'd rather meet
an inclined trinocular being than
one standing up."
Keith Newburgh, Christchurch,
N. Z., offers this Wellington clip-
ping: "The problem of where the
flies go in winter is nothing like the
problem the National Roads Board
has with its traffic tallies on the
motorway around the head of
Auckland Harbour. Figures pre-
sented to the board today showed
the count at 8000 vehicles at one
point on the motorway. At another
check point, 3 miles or so further
on, the number of vehicles had
dropped to 5000. Transport De-
partment men said there were
no roads leading off the motorway
between the two points and they
could not explain where the other
3000 vehicles went to." Mr. New-
burgh believes this shows that
aliens "are already confiscating
motor vehicles on an enormous
scale in order to facilitate their tak-
ing over this planet."
Jacob Shekel, Kiryat Motzkin,
Israel, provides a quote from Wil-
liam Feller's An Introduction to
Probability Theory and its Appli-
cations: "The essential novelty is
that a mother can have zero, one
or more daughters," and ask that
we note "the quotation hints not
only at biological differences, but a
different logic system as well. Us-
ing regular terran logic, I just can-
not imagine what the converse (or
inverse, or obverse, or any other
verse) of that statement would be;
so I cannot guess what the writer
of that sentence would consider
regular and non-novel," a comment
(Continued on page 194)
Lost in the vast Scorpion Desert of Venus,
he needed all the courage a man could own
— and every bit of credit he could raise I
By ROBERT SHECKLEY
Illustrated by DILLON
THE sandcar moved smooth-
ly over the rolling dunes,
its six fat wheels rising and
falling like the ponderous rumps of
tandem elephants. The hidden sun
beat down from a dead-white sky,
pouring heat into the canvas top,
reflecting heat back from the
"Stay awake," Morrison told
himself, pulling the sandcar back
to its compass course.
It was his twenty-first day on
Venus's Scorpion Desert, his twen-
ty-first day of fighting sleep while
the sandcar rocked across the
dunes, forging over humpbacked
little waves. Night travel would
have been easier, but there were
too many steep ravines to avoid,
too many house-sized boulders to
dodge. Now he knew why men
went into the desert in teams; one
man drove while the other kept
shaking him awake.
"But it's better alone," Morrison
reminded himself. "Half the sup-
plies and no accidental murders."
His head was beginning to
droop; he snapped himself erect.
In- front of him, the landscape
shimmered and danced through the
polaroid windshield. The sandcar
lurched and rocked with treacher-
ous gentleness. Morrison rubbed
his eyes and turned on the radio.
He was a big, sunburned, rangy
young man with close-cropped
black hair and gray eyes. He had
come to Venus with a grubstake of
twenty thousand dollars, to find his
fortune in the Scorpion Desert as
others had done before him. He had
outfitted in Presto, the last town
on the edge of the wilderness, and
spent all but ten dollars on the
sandcar and equipment.
In Presto, ten dollars just cov-
ered the cost of a drink in the
town's only saloon. So Morrison or-
dered rye and water, drank with
the miners and prospectors, and
laughed at the oldtimers' yaVns
about the sandwolf packs and the
squadrons of voracious birds that
inhabited the interior desert. He
knew all about sunblindness, heat-
stroke and telephone breakdown.
He was sure none of it would hap-
pen to him.
But now, after twenty-one days
and eighteen hundred miles, he had
learned respect for this waterless
waste of sand and stone three times
the area of the Sahara. You really
could die here!
But you could also get rich, and
that was what Morrison planned
TTIS radio hummed. At full vol-
■■"■* ume, he could hear the faint-
est murmur of dance music from
Venusborg. Then it faded and only
the hum was left.
He turned off the radio and
gripped the steering wheel tightly
in both hands. He unclenched one
hand and looked at his watch.
Nine-fifteen in the morning. At ten-
thirty he would stop and take a
nap. A man had to have rest in this
heat. But only a half-hour nap.
Treasure lay somewhere ahead of
him, and he wanted to find it before
his supplies got much lower.
The precious outcroppings of
goldenstone had to be up ahead!
He'd been following traces for two
days now. Maybe he would hit a
real bonanza, as Kirk did in '89, or
Edmonson and Arsler in '93. If so,
he would do just what they did.
He'd order up a Prospector's Spe-
cial, and to hell with the cost.
The sandcar rolled along at an
even thirty miles an hour, and Mor-
rison tried to concentrate on the
heat-blasted yellow-brown land-
scape. That sandstone patch over
there was just the tawny color of
After he struck it rich, he and
Janie would get married, and he'd
go back to Earth and buy an ocean
farm. No more prospecting. Just
one rich strike so he could buy his
spread on the deep blue Atlantic.
Maybe some people thought fish-
herding was tame; it was good
enough for him.
He could see it now, the mack-
erel herds drifting along and brows-
ing at the plankton pens, himself
and his trusty dolphin keeping an
eye out for the silvery flash of a
predatory barracuda or a steel-gray
shark coming along behind the
branching coral. . . .
Morrison felt the sandcar lurch.
He woke up, grabbed the 'steering
wheel and turned it hard. During
his moments of sleep, the vehicle
had crept over the dune's crum-
bling edge. Sand and pebbles spun
under the fat tires as the sandcar
fought for traction. The car tilted
perilously.. The^ tires shrieked
against the sand, gripped, and start-
ed to pull the vehicle back up the
Then the whole face of the dune
Morrison held onto the steering
wheel as the sandcar flipped over
on its side and rolled down the
slope. Sand filled his mouth and
eyes. He spat and held on while the
car rolled over again and dropped
For seconds, he was in the air.
The sandcar hit bottom squarely
on its wheels. Morrison heard a
double boom as the two rear tires
blew out. Then his head hit the
HEN he recovered conscious-
ness, the first thing he did was
look at his watch. It read 10:35.
"Time for that nap," Morrison
said to himself. "But I guess I'll
survey the situation first."
He found that he was at the bot-
tom of a shallow fault strewn with
knife-edged pebbles. Two tires had
blown on impact, his windshield
was gone, and one of the doors was
sprung. His equipment was strewn
around, but appeared to be intact.
"Could have been worse," Mor-
He bent down to examine the
tires more carefully.
"It is worse," he said.
The two blown tires were shred-
ded beyond repair. There wasn't
enough rubber left in them to make
a child's balloon. He had used up
his spares ten days back crossing
Devil's Grill. Used them and dis-
carded them. He couldn't go on
Morrison unpacked his tele-
phone. He wiped dust from its
black plastic face, then dialed Al's
Garage in Presto. After a moment,
the small video screen lighted up.
He could see a man's long, mourn-
ful, grease-stained face.
"Al's Garage. Eddie speaking."
"Hi, Eddie. This is Tom Mor-
rison. I bought that GM sandcar
from you about a month ago. Re-
"Sure I remember you," Eddie
said. "You're the guy doing a single
into the Southwest Track, How's
the bus holding out?"
"Fine. Great little car. Reason I
"Hey," Eddie said, "what hap-
pened to your face?"
Morrison put his hand to his
forehead and felt blood. "Nothing
much," he said. "I went over a dune
and blew out two tires."
He turned the telephone so that
Eddie could see the tires.
"Unrepairable," said Eddie.
"I thought so. And I used up all
my spares crossing Devil's Grill.
Look, Eddie, I'd like you to 'port
me a couple of tires. Retreads are
fine. I can't move the sandcar with-
"Sure," Eddie said, "except I
haven't any retreads. I'll have to
'port you new ones at five hundred
apiece. Plus four hundred dollars
'porting charges. Fourteen hundred
dollars, Mr. Morrison."
"Yes, sir. Now if you'll show me
the cash, or a money order which
you can send back with the receipt,
I'll get moving on it."
"At the moment," Morrison said,
"I haven't got a cent on me."
"Bonds? Property? Anything
you can convert into cash?"
"Nothing except this sandcar,
which you sold me for eight thou-
sand dollars. When I come back,
I'll settle my bill with the sandcar."
"// you get back. Sorry, Mr. Mor-
rison. No can do."
"What do you mean?" Morrison
asked. "You know I'll pay for the
"And you know the rules on
Venus," Eddie said, his mournful
face set in obstinate lines. "No cred-
it! Cash and carry!"
? C T can't run the sandcar without
tires," Morrison said. "Are
you going to strand me out here?"
"Who in hell is stranding you?"
Eddie asked. "This sort of thing
happens to prospectors every day.
You know what you have to do
now, Mr. Morrison. Call Public
Utility and declare yourself a bank-
rupt. Sign over what's left of the
sandcar, equipment, and anything
you've found on the way. They'll
get you out."
"I'm not turning back," Morrison
said. "Look!" He held the telephone
close to the ground. "You see the
traces, Eddie? See those red and
purple flecks? There's precious
stuff near here!"
"Every prospector sees traces,"
Eddie said. "Damned desert is full
"These are rich," Morrison said.
"These are leading straight to big
stuff, a bonanza lode. Eddie, I know
it's a lot to ask, but if you could
stake me to a couple of tires—"
"I can't do it," Eddie said. "I just
work here. I can't 'port you any
tires, not unless you show me
money first. Otherwise I get fired
and probably jailed. You know the
"Cash and carry," Morrison said
"Right. Be smart and turn back
now. Maybe you can try again
some other time."
"I spent twelve years getting this
stake together," Morrison said. "I'm
not going back."
He turned off the telephone and
tried to think. Was there anyone
else on Venus he could call? Only
Max Krandall, his jewel broker.
But Max couldn't raise fourteen
hundred dollars in that crummy
two-by-four office near Venus-
borg's jewel market. Max could
barely scrape up his own rent,
much less take care of stranded
"I can't ask Max for help," Mor-
rison decided. "Not until I've found
goldenstone. The real stuff, not just
traces. So that leaves it up to me."
He opened the back of the sand-
car and began to unload, piling his
equipment on the sand. He would
have to choose carefully; anything
he took would have to be carried on
The telephone had to go with
him, and his lightweight testing kit.
Food concentrates, revolver, com-
pass. And nothing else but water,
all the water he could carry. The
rest of the stuff would have to stay
By nightfall, Morrison was ready.
He looked regretfully at the twenty
cans of water he was leaving. In
the desert, water was a man's most
precious possession, second only to
his telephone. But it couldn't be
helped. After drinking his fill, he
hoisted his pack and set a south-
west course into the desert.
For three days he trekked to the
southwest; then on the fourth day
he veered to due south, following
an increasingly rich trace. The sun,
eternally hidden, beat down on him,
and the dead-white sky was like a
roof of heated iron over his head.
Morrison followed the traces, and
something followed him.
On the sixth day, he sensed
movement just out of the range of
his vision. On the seventh day, he
saw what was trailing him.
VENUS'S own brand of wolf,
small, lean, with a yellow coat
and long, grinning jaws, it was one
of the few mammals that made its
home in the Scorpion Desert. As
Morrison watched, two more sand-
wolves appeared beside it.
He loosened the revolver in its
holster. The wolves made no at-
tempt to come closer. They had
plenty of time.
Morrison kept on going, wishing
he had brought a rifle with him.
But that would have meant eight
pounds more, which meant eight
pounds less water.
As he was pitching camp at dusk
the eighth day, he heard a crack-
ling sound. He whirled around and
located its source, about ten feet
to his left and above his head. A
little vortex had appeared, a tiny
mouth in the air like a whirlpool
in the sea. It spun, making the char-
acteristic crackling sounds of 'port-
"Now who could be 'porting any-
thing to me?" Morrison asked,
waiting while the whirlpool slowly
Solidoporting from a base pro-
jector to a field target was a stand-
ard means of moving goods across
the vast distances of Venus. Any
inanimate object could be 'ported;
animate beings couldn't because
the process involved certain minor
but distressing molecular changes
in protoplasm. A few people had
found this out the hard way when
'porting was first introduced.
Morrison waited. The aerial
whirlpool became a mouth three
feet in diameter. From the mouth
stepped a chrome-plated robot car-
rying a large sack.
"Oh, it's you," Morrison said.
"Yes, sir," the robot said, now
completely clear of the field. "Wil-
Hams 4 at your service with the
It was a robot of medium height,
thin-shanked and flat-footed, hu-
manoid in appearance, amiable in
disposition. For twenty-three years
it had been Venus's entire postal
service— sorter, deliverer, and dead
storage. It had been built to last,
and for twenty-three years the
mails had always come through.
"Here we are, Mr. Morrison,"
Williams 4 said. "Only twice-a-
month mail call in the desert, I'm
sorry to say, but it comes promptly
and that's a blessing. This is for
you. And this. I think there's one
more. Sandcar broke down, eh?"
"It sure did," Morrison said, tak-
ing his letters.
Williams 4 went on rummaging
through its bag. Although it was a
superbly efficient postman, the old
robot was known as the worst gos-
sip on three planets. .
"There's one more in here some-
where," Williams 4 said. "Too bad
about the sandcar. They just don't
build 'em like they did in my youth.
Take my advice, young man. Turn
back if you still have the chance."
Morrison shook his head.
"Foolish, downright foolish," the
old robot said. "Pity you don't have
my perspective. Too many's the
time I've come across you boys ly-
ing in the sand in the dried-out sack
of your skin, or with your bones
gnawed to splinters by the sand-
wolves and the filthy black kites.
Twenty-three years I've been de-
livering mail to fine-looking young
men like you, and each one think-
ing he's unique and different."
THE robot's eyecells became
distant with memory. "But
they aren't different," Williams 4
said. "They're as alike as robots off
the assembly line — especially after
the wolves get through with them.
And then I have to send their let-
ters and personal effects back to
their loved ones on Earth."
"I know," Morrison said. "But
some get through, don't they?"
"Sure they do," the robot said.
I've seen men make one, two,
three fortunes. And then die on the
sands trying to make a fourth."
"Not me," Morrison said. "I just
want one. Then I'm going to buy
me an undersea farm on Earth."
The robot shuddered. "I have a
dread of salt water. But to each his
own. Good luck, young man."
The robot looked Morrison over
carefully — probably to see what
he had in the way of personal ef-
fects — then climbed back into the
aerial whirlpool. In a moment, it
was gone. In another moment, the
whirlpool had vanished.
Morrison sat down to read his
mail. The first letter was from his
jewel broker, Max Krandall. It told
about the depression that had hit
Venusborg, and hinted that Kran-
dall might have to go into bank-
ruptcy if some of his prospectors
didn't strike something good.
The second letter was a state-
ment from the Venus Telephone
Company. Morrison owed two hun-
dred and ten dollars and eight cents
for two months' telephone service.
Unless he remitted this sum at
once, his telephone was liable to
be turned off.
The last letter, all the way from
Earth, was from Janie. It was filled
with news about his cousins, aunts
and uncles. She told him about the
Atlantic farm sites she had looked
over, and the wonderful little place
she had found near Martinique in
the Caribbean. She begged him to
give up prospecting if it looked
dangerous; they could find another
way of financing the farm. She sent
all her love and wished him a
happy birthday in advance.
"Birthday?" Morrison asked
himself. "Let's see, today is July
twenty-third. No, it's the twenty-
fourth, and my birthday's August
first. Thanks for remembering,
That night he dreamed of Earth
and the blue expanse of the At-
lantic Ocean. But toward dawn,
when the heat of Venus became
insistent, he found he was dreaming
of mile upon mile of goldenstone, of
grinning sandwolves, and of the
"O OCK gave way to sand as Mor-
■*-** rison plowed his way across
the bottom of a long-vanished lake.
Then it was rock again, twisted
and tortured into a thousand gaunt
shapes. Reds, yellows and browns
swam in front of his eyes. In all
that desert, there wasn't one patch
He continued his trek into the
tumbled stone mazes of the interior
desert, and the wolves trekked with
him, keeping pace far out on either
Morrison ignored them. He had
enough on his mind just to nego-
tiate the sheer cliffs and the fields
of broken stone that blocked his
way to the south.
By the eleventh day after leav-
ing the sandcar, the traces were
almost rich enough for panning.
The sandwolves were tracking him
still, and his water was almost gone.
Another day's march would finish
Morrison thought for a moment,
then unstrapped his telephone and
dialed Public Utility in Venusborg.
The video screen showed a stern,
severely dressed woman with iron-
gray hair. "Public Utility," she said.
"May we be of service?"
"Hi," Morrison said cheerfully.
"How's the weather in Venusborg?"
"Hot," the woman said. "How's
it out there?"
"I hadn't even noticed," Morri-
son said, grinning. "Too busy count-
ing my fortune."
"You've found goldenstone?" the
woman asked, her expression be-
coming less severe.
"Sure have," Morrison said. "But
still staking my claim. I think I
can use a refill on these."
Smiling easily, he held up his
canteens. Sometimes it worked.
Sometimes, if you showed enough
confidence, Public Utility would
fill you up without checking your
account. True, it was embezzling,
but this was no time for niceties.
"I suppose your account is in or-
der?" asked the woman.
"Of course," Morrison said, feel-
ing his smile grow stiff. "The name's
Tom Morrison. You can just
"Oh, I don't do that personally,"
the woman said. "Hold that can-
teen steady. Here we go."
i^ 1 RIPPING the canteen in both
^^ hands, Morrison watched as
the water, 'ported four thousand
miles from Venusborg, appeared as
a slender crystal stream above the
mouth of his canteen. The stream
entered the canteen, making a
wonderful gurgling sound. Watch-
ing it, Morrison found his dry
mouth actually was beginning to
Then the water stopped.
"What's the matter?" Morrison
His video screen went blank.
Then it cleared, and Morrison
found himself staring into a man's
narrow face. The man was seated
in front of a large desk. The sign in
front of him read Milton P. Reade,
don't pass the word around yet. I'm Vice President, Accounts.
?f|VJR. Morrison," Reade said,
your account is overdrawn.
You have been obtaining water
under false pretenses. That is a
"I'm going to pay for the water,"
"As soon as I get back to Venus-
"With what," asked Mr. Reade,
"do you propose to pay?"
"With goldenstone," Morrison
said. "Look around here, Mr.
Reade. The traces are rich! Richer
than they were for the Kirk claim!
I'll be hitting the outcroppings in
"That's what every prospector
thinks," Mr. Reade said. "Every
prospector on Venus is only a day
from goldenstone. And they all ex-
pect credit from Public Utility."
"But in this case-"
"Public Utility," Mr. Reade con-
tinued inexorably, "is not a philan-
thropic organization. Its charter
specifically forbids the extension of
credit. Venus is a frontier, Mr. Mor-
rison, a farflung frontier. Every
manufactured article on Venus
must be imported from Earth at
outrageous cost. We do have our
own water, but locating it, purify-
ing it, then 'porting it is an expen-
sive process. This company, like
every other company on Venus,
necessarily operates on a very nar-
row margin of profit, which is in-
variably plowed back into further
expansion. That is why there can
be no credit on Venus."
"I know all that," Morrison said.
"But I'm telling you, I only need a
day or two more—"
"Absolutely impossible. By the
rules, we shouldn't even help you
out now. The time to report bank-
ruptcy was a week ago, when your
sandcar broke down. Your garage
man reported, as required by law.
But you didn't. We would be
within our rights to leave you
stranded. Do you understand
"Yes, of course," Morrison said
"However, the company has de-
cided to stretch a point in your
favor. If you turn back immediate-
ly, we will keep you supplied with
water for the return trip."
I'm not turning back yet. I'm
almost on the real stuff."
"You must turn back! Be reas-
onable, Morrison! Where would we
be if we let every prospector wan-
der over the desert while we sup-
plied his water? There'd be ten
thousand men out there, and we'd
be out of business inside of a year.
I'm stretching the rules now. Turn
"No," said Morrison.
"You'd better think about it. If
you don't turn back now, Public
Utility takes no further responsi-
bility for your water supply."
Morrison nodded. If he went on,
he would stand a good chance of
dying in the desert But if he Morrison sat down and shook his
turned back, what then? He would
be in Venusborg, penniless and in
debt, looking for work in an over-
crowded city. He'd sleep in a com-
munity shed and eat at a soup
kitchen with the other prospectors
who had turned back. And how
would he be able to raise the fare
back to Earth? When would he
ever see Janie again?
"I guess I'll keep on going," Mor-
"Then Public Utility takes no
further responsibility for you,"
Reade repeated, and hung up.
Morrison packed up his tele-
phone, took a sip from his meager
water supply, and went on.
r JT HE sandwolves loped along at
-*■ each side, moving in closer.
Overhead, a delta-winged kite
found him. It balanced on the up-
drafts for a day and a night, wait-
ing for the wolves to finish him.
Then a flock of small flying scor-
pions sighted the waiting kite.
They drove the big creature up-
stairs into the cloud bank. For a
day the flying reptiles waited. Then
they in turn were driven off by a
squadron of black kites.
The traces were very rich now,
on the fifteenth day since he had
left the sandcar. By rights, he
should be walking over golden-
stone. He should be surrounded by
goldenstone. But still he hadn't
last canteen. It gave off no wet
sound. He uncapped it and turned
it up over his mouth. Two drops
trickled down his parched throat.
It was about four days since he
had talked to Public Utility. He
must have used up the last of his
water yesterday. Or had it been the
He recapped the empty canteen
and looked around at the heat-
blasted landscape. Abruptly he
pulled the telephone out of his
pack and dialed Max Krandall in
Krandall's round, worried face
swam into focus on the screen.
"Tommy," he said, "you look like
"I'm all right," Morrison said. "A
little dried out, that's all. Max, I'm
"Are you sure?" Krandall asked.
for yourself," Morrison
said, swinging the telephone
around. "Look at the stone forma-
tions! Do you see the red and pur-
ple markings over there?"
"Traces, all right," Krandall ad-
"There's rich stuff just beyond
it," Morrison said. "There has to
be! Look, Max, I know you're short
on money, but I'm going to ask you
a favor. Send me a pint of water.
Just a pint, so I can go on for
another day or two. We can both
get rich for the price of a pint of
"I can't do it," Krandall said
"That's right. Tommy, I'd send
you water even if there wasn't any-
thing around you but sandstone and
granite. Do you think I'd let you
die of thirst if I could help it? But
I can't do a thing. Take a look."
RANDALL rotated his tele-
phone. Morrison saw that the
chairs, table, desk, filing cabinet
and safe were gone from the office.
All that was left in the room was
"I don't know why they haven't
taken out the phone," Krandall
said. "I owe two months on my
"I do too," said Morrison.
"I'm stripped," Krandall said. "I
haven't got a dime. Don't get
me wrong, I'm not worried about
myself. I can always eat at a soup
kitchen. But I can't 'port you any
water. Not you or Remstaater."
"Yeah. He was following a trace
up north past Forgotten River. His
sandcar broke an axle last week
and he wouldn't turn back. His
water ran out yesterday."
I'd bail him out if I could," said
"And he'd bail you out if he
could," Krandall said. "But he can't
and you can't and I can't. Tommy,
you have only one hope."
"Find goldenstone. Not just
traces, find the real thing worth
real money. Then phone me. If you
really have goldenstone, I'll bring
in Wilkes from Tri-Planet Mining
and get him to advance us some
money. He'll probably want fifty
per cent of the claim."
"That's plain robbery!"
"No, it's just the high cost of
credit on Venus," Krandall an-
swered. "Don't worry, there'll still
be plenty left over. But you have
to find goldenstone first"
"OK," Morrison said. "It should
be around here somewhere. Max,
what's today's date?"
"July thirty-first. Why?"
"Just wondering. I'll call you
when I've found something."
After hanging up, Morrison sat
on a little boulder and stared dully
at the sand. July thirty-first. To-
morrow was his birthday. His fam-
ily would be thinking about him.
Aunt Bess in Pasadena, the twins
in Laos, Uncle Ted in Durango.
And Janie, of course, waiting for
him in Tampa.
Morrison realized that tomorrow
might be his last birthday unless
he found goldenstone.
He got to his feet, strapped the
telephone back in his pack beside
the empty canteens, and set a
course to the south.
E wasn't alone. The birds and
beasts of the desert marched
with him. Overhead, the silent
black kites circled endlessly. The
sandwolves crept closer on Jiis
flanks, their red tongues lolling out,
waiting for the carcass to fall . . .
"I'm not dead yet!" Morrison
shouted at them.
He drew his revolver and fired
at the nearest wolf. At twenty feet,
he missed. He went down on one
knee, held the revolver tightly in
both hands and fired again. The
wolf yelped in pain. The pack im-
mediately went for the wounded
animal, and the kites swooped
down for their share.
Morrison put the revolver back
in its holster and went on. He could
tell he was in a badly dehydrated
state. The landscape jumped and
danced in front of him, and his foot-
ing was unsure. He discarded the
empty canteens, threw away every-
thing but the testing kit, telephone
and revolver. Either he was com-
ing out of the desert in style or he
wasn't coming out at all.
The traces continued to run rich.
But still he came upon no sign of
That evening he found a shallow
cave set into the base of a cliff. He
crawled inside and built a barri-
cade of rocks across the entrance.
Then he drew his revolver and
leaned back against the far wall.
The sandwolves were outside,
sniffing and snapping their jaws.
Morrison propped himself up and
got ready for an all-night vigil.
He didn't sleep, but he couldn't
stay awake, either. Dreams and
visions tormented him. He was
back on Earth and Janie was say-
ing to him, "It's the tuna. Some-
thing must be wrong with their
diet. Every last one of them is
"It's the darnedest thing," Mor-
rison told her. "Just as soon as you
domesticate a fish, it turns into a
"Are you going to stand there
philosophizing," Janie asked, "while
your fish are sick?"
"Call the vet."
"I did. He's off at the Blake's
place, taking care of their dairy
"All right, I'll go out and take a
look." He slipped on his face mask.
Grinning, he said, "I don't even
have time to dry off before I have
to go out again."
His face and chest were wet.
ORRISON opened his eyes.
His face and chest were wet
— from perspiration. Staring at the
partially blocked mouth of the
cave, he could see green eyes, two,
four, six, eight
He fired at them, but they didn't
retreat. He fired again, and his bul-
let richocheted off the cave wall,
stinging him with stone splinters.
With his next shots, he succeeded
in winging one of the wolves. The
That emptied the revolver. Mor-
rison searched through his pockets
and found five more cartridges. He
carefully loaded the gun. Dawn
couldn't be far away now.
And then he was dreaming again,
this time of the Prospector's Spe-
cial. He had heard about it in every
little saloon that bordered the
Scorpion. Bristly-bearded old pros-
pectors told a hundred different
stories about it, and the cynical
bartenders chimed in with their
versions. Kirk had it in '89, ordered
up big and special just for him. Ed-
monson and Arsler received it in
'93. That was certain. And other
men had had it too, as they sat on
their precious goldenstone claims.
Or so people said.
But was it real? Was there such
a thing as the Prospector's Special?
Would he live to see that rainbow-
hued wonder, tall as a church
steeple, wide as a house, more pre-
cious than goldenstone itself?
Sure he would! Why, he could
almost see it now . . .
Morrison shook himself awake.
It was morning. Painfully, he
crawled out of the cave to face the
' He stumbled and crawled to the
south, escorted closely by wolves,
shaded by predatory flying things.
His fingers scrabbled along rock
and sand. The traces were rich,
But where in all this desolation
was the goldenstone?
Where? He was almost past car-
ing. He drove his sunburned, dried-
out body, stopping only to fire a
single shot when the wolves came
Four bullets left.
He had to fire again when the
kites, growing impatient, started
diving at his head. A lucky shot
tore into the flock, downing two.
It gave the wolves something to
fight over. Morrison crawled on
And fell over the edge of a little
It wasn't a serious fall, but the
revolver was knocked from his
hand. Before he could find it, the
wolves were on him. Only their
greed saved Morrison. While they
fought over him, he rolled away
and retrieved his revolver. Two
shots scattered the pack. That left
He'd have to save fhat one for
himself, because he was too tired
to go on. He sank to his knees. The
traces were rich here. Fantastically
rich. Somewhere nearby . . .
"Well, I'll be damned," Morrison
The little ravine into which he
had fallen was solid goldenstone.
TT E picked up a pebble. Even in
-"-•■■ its rough state he could see
the deep luminous golden glow, the
fiery red and purple flecks deep in
the shining stone.
"Make sure," Morrison told him-
self. "No false alarms, no visions,
no wild hopes. Make sure."
He broke off a chunk of rock
with the butt of his revolver. It still
looked like goldenstone. He took
out his testing kit and spilled a few
drops of white solution on the rock.
The solution foamed green.
"Goldenstone, sure as sure,"
Morrison said, looking around at
the glowing cliff walls. "Hey, I'm
He took out his telephone. With
trembling fingers he dialed Kran-
"Max!" Morrison shouted. "I've
hit it! I've hit the real stuff!*
"My name is not Max," a voice
over the telephone said.
"]ty[y name is Boyard," the man
The video screen cleared, and
Morrison saw a thin, sallow-faced
man with a hairline mustache.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Boyard," Mor-
rison said. "I must have gotten the
wrong number. I was calling-
"It doesn't matter who you were
calling," Mr. Boyard said. "I am
District Supervisor of the Venus
Telephone Company. Your bill is
two months overdue."
"I can pay it now," Morrison
"Excellent," said Mr. Boyard.
"As soon as you do, your service
will be resumed."
The screen began to fade.
"Wait!" Morrison cried. "I can
pay as soon as I reach your office.
But I must make one telephone
call. Just one call, so that I-
"Not a chance," Mr. Boyard said
decisively. "After you have paid
your bill, your service will be
turned on immediately."
"I've got the money right here!"
Morrison said. "Right here in my
i Mr. Boyard paused. "Well, it's
unusual, but I suppose we could ar-
range for a special robot messen-
ger if you are veiling to pay the
"Hm. It's irregular, but I daresay
we . . . Where is the money?"
"Right here," Morrison said.
"You recognize it, don't you? It's
"I am sick and tired of the tricks
you prospectors think you can put
over on us. Holding up a handful
"But this is really goldenstone!
Can't you see it?"
"I am a businessman," Mr. Boy-
ard said, "not a jeweler. I wouldn't
know goldenstone from goldenrod."
The video screen went blank.
-*• tried to reach the operator.
There was nothing* not even a dial
tone. His telephone was discon-
He put the instrument down and
surveyed his situation. The narrow
crevice into which he had fallen ran
straight for about twenty yards,
then curved to the left No cave
was visible in the steep walls, no
place where he could build a bar-
He heard a movement behind
him. Whirling around, he saw a
huge old wolf in full charge. With-
out a moment's hesitation, Mor-
rison drew and fired, blasting off
the top of the beast's head.
"Damn it," Morrison said. "I was
going to save that bullet for my-
It gave him a moment's grace.
He ran down the ravine, looking
for an opening in its sides. Gold-
enstone glowed at him and sparkled
red and purple. And the sand-
wolves loped along behind him.
Then Morrison stopped. In front
of him, the curving ravine ended
in a sheer wall.
He put his back against it, hold-
ing the revolver by its butt. The
wolves stopped five feet from him,
gathering themselves for a rush.
There were ten or twelve of them,
and they were packed three deep
in the narrow pass. Overhead, the
kites circled, waiting for their turn.
At that moment, Morrison heard
the crackling sound of 'porting
equipment. A whirlpool appeared
above the wolves' heads and they
backed hastily away.
"Just in time!" Morrison said.
"In time for what?" asked Wil-
Hams 4, the postman.
The robot climbed out of the
vortex and looked around.
said, "this is a fine fix you've gotten
yourself into. Didn't I warn you?
Didn't I advise you to turn back?
And now look!"
"You were perfectly right," Mor-
rison said. "What did Max Kran-
dall send me?"
"Max Krandall did not, and
could not, send a thing."
"Then why are you here?"
"Because it's your birthday,"
Williams 4 said. "We of the Postal
Department always give special
service for birthdays. Here you
Williams 4 gave him a handful of
mail, birthday greetings from
Janie, and from his aunts, uncles
and cousins on Earth.
"Something else here," Williams
4 said, rummaging in his bag. "I
think there was something else
here. Let me see . . . Yes, here it is."
He handed Morrison a small
ASTILY, Morrison tore off the
wrappings. It was a birthday
present from his Aunt Mina in New
Jersey. He opened it. It was a large
box of salt-water taffy, direct from
"Quite a delicacy, I'm told," said
Williams 4, who had been peering
over his shoulder. "But not very
satisfactory under the circum-
stances. Well, young man, I hate
to see anyone die on his birthday.
The best I can wish you is a speedy
"Well, young man," Williams 4 and painless departure."
The robot began walking toward
"Wait!" Morrison cried. "You
can't just leave me like this! I
haven't had any water in days! And
those wolves— "
"I know," Williams 4 said. "Do
you think I feel happy about it?
Even a robot has some feelings!"
"Then help me.".
"I can't. The rules of the Postal
Department expressly and cate-
gorically forbid it. I remember
Abner Lathe making much the
same request of me in '97. It took
three years for a burial party to
"You have an emergency tele-
phone, haven't you?" Morrison
"Yes. But I can use it only for
"Can you at least carry a letter
for me? A special delivery letter?"
"Of course I can," the robot post-
man said. "That's what I'm here for.
I can even lend you pencil and
Morrison accepted the pencil
and paper and tried to think. If he
wrote to Max now, special delivery,
Max would have the letter in a
matter of hours. But how long
would Max need to raise some
money and send him water and
ammunition? A day, two days?
Morrison would have to figure out
some way of holding out ...
"I assume you have a stamp," the
"I don't," Morrison replied.
"But I'll buy one from you. Solido-
"Excellent," said the robot. "We
have just put out a new series of
Venusborg triangulars. I consider
them quite an esthetic accomplish-
ment. They cost three dollars
"That's fine. Very reasonable.
Let me have one."
"There is the question of pay-
"Here," Morrison said, handing
the robot a piece of goldenstone
worth about five thousand dollars
in the rough.
The postman examined the
stone, then handed it back. "I'm
sorry, I can accept only cash."
"But this is worth more than a
thousand postage stamps!" Mor-
rison said. "This is goldenstone!"
"It may well be," Williams 4
said. "But I have never had any
assaying knowledge taped into me.
Nor is the Venus Postal Service
run on a barter system. I'll have to
ask for three dollars in bills or
"I don't have it."
"I am very sorry." Williams
4 turned to go.
"You can't just go and let me
"I can and must," Williams 4
said sadly. "I am only a robot, Mr.
Morrison. I was made by men, and
naturally I partake of some of their
sensibilities. That's as it should be.
But I also have my limits, which,
in their nature, are similar to the
limits most humans have on this
harsh planet. And, unlike humans,
I cannot transcend my limits."
The robot started to climb into
the whirlpool. Morrison stared at
him blankly, and saw beyond him
the waiting wolfpack. He saw the
soft glow of several million dollars'
worth of goldenstone shining from
the ravine's walls.
Something snapped inside him.
"IW7ITH an inarticulate yell, Mor-
* * rison dived, tackling the robot
around the ankles. Williams 4, half
in and half out of the 'porting vor-
tex, struggled and kicked, and al-
most succeeded in shaking Mor-
rison loose. But with a maniac's
strength Morrison held on. Inch
by inch he dragged the robot out of
the vortex, threw him on the
ground and pinned him.
"You are disrupting the mail
service," said Williams 4.
"That's not all I'm going to dis-
rupt," Morrison growled. "I'm not
afraid of dying. That was part of
the gamble. But I'm damned if I'm
going to die fifteen minutes after
I've struck it rich!"
"You have no choice."
"I do. I'm going to use that emer-
gency telephone of yours."
"You can't," Williams 4 said. "I
refuse to extrude it. And you could
never reach it without the re-
sources of a machine shop."
. "Could be," said Morrison. "I
plan to find out." He pulled out his
"What are you going to do?"
Williams 4 asked.
I'm going to see if I can smash
you into scrap metal without the
resources of a machine shop. I
think your eyecells would be a logi-
cal place to begin."
"They would indeed," said the
robot. "I have no personal sense of
survival, of course. But let me point
out that you would be leaving all
Venus without a postman. Many
would suffer because of your anti-
"I hope so," Moirison said, rais-
ing the revolver above his head.
"Also," the robot said hastily,
"you would be destroying govern-
ment property. That is a serious
Morrison laughed and swung the
pistol. The robot moved its head
quickly, dodging the blow. It tried
to wriggle free, but Morrison's two
hundred pounds was seated firmly
on its thorax.
"I won't miss this time," Mor-
rison promised, hefting the re-
"Stop!" Williams 4 said. "It is
my duty to protect government
property, even if that property hap-
pens to be myself. You may use
my telephone, Mr. Morrison. Bear
in mind that this offense is pun-
ishable by a sentence of not more
than ten and not less than five years
in the Solar Swamp Penitentiary."
"Let's have that telephone,"
r |^HE robot's chest opened and a
-■■ small telephone extruded. Mor-
rison dialed Max Krandall and ex-
plained the situation.
"I see, I see," Krandall said. "All
right, 111 try to find Wilkes. But,
Tom, I don't know how much I can
do. It's after business hours. Most
places are closed—"
"Get them open again," said
Morrison. "I can pay for it And
get Jim Remstaater out of trouble,
"It can't be done just like that.
You haven't established any rights
to your claim. You haven't even
proved that your claim is valuable."
"Look at it." Morrison turned
the telephone so that Krandall
could see the glowing walls of the
"Looks real," Krandall said. "But
unfortunately, all that glitters is not
"What can we do?" Morrison
"We'll have to take it step by
step. I'll 'port you the Public Sur-
veyor. He'll check your claim, es-
tablish its limits, and make sure no
one else has filed on it. You give
him a chunk of goldenstone to take
back. A big chunk."
"How can I cut goldenstone? I
don't have any tools."
"You'll have to figure out a way.
He'll take the chunk back for as-
saying. If it's rich enough, you're
"And if it isn't?"
"Perhaps we better not talk
about that," Krandall said. "I'll get
right to Work on this, Tommy.
Morrison signed off. He stood up
and helped the robot to its feet
"In twenty-three years of serv-
ice," Williams 4 said, "this is the
first time anybody has threatened
the life of a government postal em-
ployee. I must report this to the
police authorities at Venusborg,
Mr. Morrison. I have no choice."
"I know," Morrison said. "But
I guess five or ten years in the
penitentiary is better than dying."
"I doubt it. I carry mail there,
you know. You will have the op-
portunity of seeing for yourself in
about six months."
"What?" said Morrison, stunned.
"In about six months, after I
have completed my mail calls
around the planet and returned to
Venusborg. A matter like this must
be reported in person. But first and
foremost, the mails must go
"Thanks, Williams. I don't know
"I am simply performing my
duty," the robot said as it climbed
into the vortex. "If you are still on
Venus in six months, I will be de-
livering your mail to the peniten-
"I won't be here," Morrison said.
"So long, Williams!"
The robot disappeared into the
'porting vortex. Then the vortex
disappeared. Morrison was alone in
the Venusian twilight.
TTE found an outcropping of gol-
-*--*- denstone larger than a man's
head. He chipped at it with his
pistol butt, and tiny particles
danced and shimmered in the air.
After an hour, he had put four dents
in his revolver, but he had barely
scratched the highly refractory sur-
face of the goldenstone.
The sandwolves began to edge
forward. Morrison threw stones at
them and shouted in his dry,
cracked voice. The wolves re-
He examined the outcropping
again and found a hairline fault
running along one edge. He con-
centrated his blows along the fault.
The goldenstone refused to
Morrison wiped sweat from his
eyes and tried to think. A chisel,
he needed a chisel . . .
He pulled off his belt. Putting
the edge of the steel buckle against
the crack, he managed to hammer
it in a fraction of an inch. Three
more blows drove the buckle firm-
ly into the fault. With another
blow, the outcropping sheared off
cleanly. He had separated a twen-
ty-pound piece from the cliff. At
fifty dollars a troy ounce, this lump
should be worth about twelve thou-
sand dollars — if it assayed out as
pure as it looked.
The twilight had turned a deep
gray when the Public Surveyor
'ported in. It was a short, squat
robot with a conservative crackle-
"Good day, sir," the surveyor
said. "You wish to file a claim?
A standard unrestricted mining
"That's right," Morrison said.
"And where is the center of the
"Huh? The center? I guess I'm
standing on it."
"Very well," the robot said.
Extruding a steel tape, it walked
rapidly away from Morrison. At a
distance of two hundred yards, it
stopped. More steel tape fluttered
as it walked, flew and climbed a
square with Morrison at the cen-
ter. When it had finished, the sur-
veyor stood for a long time with-
"What are you doing?" Morrison
"I'm making depth-photographs
of the terrain," the robot said. "It's
rather difficult in this light.
Couldn't you wait till morning?"
"Well, I'll just have to cope,"
the robot said.
It moved and stood, moved and
stood, each subterranean exposure
taking longer than the last as the
twilight deepened. If it had had
pores, it would have sweated.
"There," said the robot at last,
"that takes care of it. Do you have
a sample for me to take back?"
"Here it is," Morrison said, heft-
ing the slab of goldenstone and
handing it to the surveyor. "Is that
"Absolutely all," the robot said.
"Except, of course, that you haven't
given me the Deed of Search."
ORRISON blinked. "I haven't
given you the what?"
"The Deed of Search. That is
a government document showing
that the claim you are filing on is
free, as per government order, of
fissionable material in excess of fif-
ty per cent of the total mass to a
depth of sixty feet It's a mere for-
mality, but a necessary one."
"I never heard of it," Morrison
"It became a requirement last
week," explained the surveyor.
"You don't have the Deed? Then
I'm afraid your standard unre-
stricted claim is invalid."
"Isn't there anything I can do?"
"Well," the robot said, "you
could change your standard unre-
stricted claim to a special restricted
claim. That requires no Deed of
"What does the special restricted
"It means that in five hundred
years all rights revert to the Gov-
ernment of Venus."
"All right! " Morrison shouted.
"Fine! Good! Is that all?"
"Absolutely all," the surveyor
said. "I shall bring this sample back
and have it assayed and evaluated
immediately. From it and the
depth-photographs we can extra-
polate the value and extent of your
"Send me back something to
take care of the wolves," Morrison
said. "And food. And listen— I want
a Prospector's Special."
"Yes, sir. It will all be 'ported to
you — if your claim is of sufficient
value to warrant the outlay."
The robot climbed into the vor-
tex and vanished.
Time passed, and the wolves
edged forward again. They snarled
at the rocks Morrison threw, but
they didn't retreat Jaws open and
tongues lolling, they crept up the
remaining yards between them and
Then the leading wolf leaped
back and howled. A gleaming vor-
tex had appeared over his head and
a rifle had fallen from the vortex,
striking him on a forepaw.
The wolves scrambled away. An-
other rifle fell from the vortex.
Then a large box marked Grenades,
Handle With Care. Then another
box marked Desert Ration K.
Morrison waited, staring at the
gleaming mouth of the vortex. It
crossed the sky to a spot a quar-
ter of a mile away and paused
there, and then a great round brass
base emerged from the vortex, and
the mouth widened to allow an
even greater bulge of brass to
which the base was attached. The
bulge grew higher as the base was
lowered to the sand. When the last
of it appeared, it stood alone in
the horizon-to-horizon expanse, a
gigantic ornate brass punchbowl in
the desert. The vortex rose and
paused again over the bowl.
Morrison waited, his throat raw
and aching. Now a small trickle
came out of the vortex and
splashed down into the bowl. Still
Morrison didn't move.
ND then it came. The trickle
became a roar that sent the
wolves and kites fleeing in terror,
and a cataract poured from the vor-
tex to the huge punchbowl.
Morrison 'began staggering to-
ward it. He should have ordered a
canteen, he told himself thirstily,
stumbling across the quarter of a
mile of sand. But at last he stood
beneath the Prospector's Special,
higher than a church steeple, wider
than a house, filled with water more
precious than goldenstone itself.
He turned the spigot at the bottom.
Water soaked the yellow sands and
ran in rivulets down the dune.
He should have ordered a cup or
glass, Morrison thought, lying on
his back with open mouth.
— ROBERT SHECKLEY
By ROSEL GEORGE BROWN
If I was willing to get to the
root of this problem, why were
they so up in the air over it?
Illustrated by DILLON
LATER on, I couldn't re-
member quite why I did it.
I was sitting there in my
usual condition of vague awareness,
wishing Barbara's voice would
stop grating away because there
was a man who was going to talk to
us about St. Augustine grass, and
I was hoping he'd say what to do
for the brown spots in my lawn.
"Oh, come on, girls," Barbara
was saying. "We ought to enter the
Federated Gardens show. Last
year we won third prize."
What Barbara wanted, of course,
was for us to urge her to do the Ar-
rangement. She was the only one of
us with any talent, and to be fair,
Barbara is a real maestro.
Every year we each make a
Dried Arrangement and Barbara
comes along and ^ays, "Um!" and
presses her lips together and waves
her hand over your weedy-looking
mess and pokes sticks in and out of
the starfoam and, presto, you have
a beautiful Arrangement to keep in
your living room until the next
Dried Arrangements meeting.
Every year I take it home and
everyone says, "Oh, isn't that beau-
tiful! Did you make it?" And of
course I had been rather pretend-
ing I had made it, only if somebody
asked me about it directly, I had
to say, "No, Barbara James made
it." I frequently wished I had the
courage to rush out of the Dried
Arrangements meeting before she
got to me and set my weedy,
whispy Arrangement on the buffet
and leave it there.
Needless to say, I do not have
this kind of courage.
Only as Barbara got to the part
where she says, "O.K. Any volun-
teers?" something popped inside
of me and I shot my hand up and
said, "I'd be glad to have a try at
Barbara's mouth quirked a little,
because she knew perfectly well
what kind of Arrangements I make,
"and because she had probably al-
ready decided exactly what sort of
Arrangement the Eastbank Garden
Group was going to enter in the
Federated Gardens show.
But she said, "That's fine, Sally
Jo. You're to use camellias in it
somewhere. I think you'd do best
with a simple fan Arrangement.
I'll mail you their rules book, and
if you'd like any — er — advice,
why, I'd be glad to help." •
That was it, of course. She wasn't
going to let it be my Arrangement
I didn't even hear what the man
said about St. Augustine grass. All
the time I was thinking, thinking,
thinking. Was there any kind of
Arrangement I could make that
Barbara couldn't do better? Some-
thing really different, so that when
I looked at it, I wouldn't have to
picture Barbara pressing her lips
T was about eleven o'clock at
night' when I got home, and of
course Ronald was asleep, but I
just couldn't bear this by myself.
"Ronald!" I cried in a loud whis-
per so as not to wake Tommy. "Do
you know what I've done!"
Ronald snuffled irritably, then
sat up with a jerk and grabbed me
by the shoulders.
"You ran over somebody!"
"No. I volunteered to make the
flower Arrangement for the Fed-
erated Gardens show!"
Ronald mumbled blasphemies
and sank back into his pillow.
"Darling, please stay awake.
You see, the thing is, I'm actually
going to do this. Only there's the
matter of Barbara. Now, if I can
only find something— come to think
of it, there's the Hogarth Curve.
Barbara can do fans or Japanese
things or crescents, but the one
thing Barbara has never won a
prize on is the Hogarth Curve. It
tends to droop, you see. Darling . . ."
But he was asleep.
For a wild moment I even con-
sidered waking up Tommy, just to
have someone to talk to.
The wild moment passed and I
eyed the telephone. But there isn't
anyone you can call up at eleven
o'clock at night and say, "About
the Hogarth Curve-
I crossed my arms over my chest
and slipped my feet out of my
shoes so I could stride up and down
the house quietly. Naturally I
couldn't think of anything. I never
can when I try.
But it hit me the next day. I
was putting some applique on a
pot holder for the bazaar in Janu-
ary — I loathe applique — and there
The Hogarth Curve wouldn't do,
because while Barbara wasn't real-
ly successful with that kind of Ar-
rangement, she could look at it and
immediately see what was wrong.
But the Hogarth Curve isn't the
only line in the world. Lines re-
minded me of math, and math re-
minded me of that Mathematics
for Morons book Ronald brought
home in one of his numerous un-
successful attempts to improve my
I stuck my finger with a needle,
hissed at the stab, held the pot
holder carefully away so as not to
get blood on it. Applique, ha!
There was something in that
book I wanted to remember. Some
really interesting line. I grabbed
the book and started down the in-
dex. B. I was sure it began with a B.
No. Moebius Strip. That was it.
Feverishly, I flipped the pages
back to find out what it was that
. was so interesting about the Moe-
bius Strip, and whether it could
be done with an aspidistra leaf
soaked in glycerin.
"Brring!" went the alarm clock,
which I always reset in the morn-
ing to tell me to go get Tommy.
"Damn, damn, damn," I said,
glancing hastily around at the part
on Moebius Strips. There were
other interesting-looking lines, but
I just had a feeling the Moebius
one was right.
ALKING into the kindergar-
ten, I peered around for Tom-
"Everything all right?" Miss
"Urn? Oh." I guess I had a glazed
look in my eyes. "Come to think of
it, I've been pondering it all morn-
ing and I haven't told anybody yet.
I'm going to make the Arrange-
ment for the Federated Gardens
"How nice! You could make a
real family project out of it!" Miss
Potter said with her usual mis-
placed enthusiasm. "Tommy loves
to make things!"
Tommy talked all the way home,
but I didn't hear a word he said.
"Make yourself a peanut butter
sandwich," I said when I pushed
open % the back door.
"Boys my age need a good hot
"My mother used to have to
force me to eat a good hot lunch.
I'd have liked nothing better than
to come home and make myself a
peanut butter sandwich."
Tommy gave me his accusatory
"Oh, all right," I said.
A FTER lunch, we went out in
-^*- the garage where I have my
lab— ferns being pressed between
newspapers, cattails hanging up to
dry, my bucket of things in glyc-
"What I need," I mused, "is the
biggest aspidistra in the world."
I found a really nice one. Brown-
ish, of course, but with a reddish
streak and hints of deep green in
it. And best of all, a light stripe
right down the middle.
"This," I said, "is going to be the
very soul of our flower arrange-
"What's a soul?"
"A soul . . ." The telephone rang.
I am not always this fortunate.
"I wanted to let you know," Bar-
bara said, "that I've got the perfect
container for your Arrangement. A
pale blue cloisonne bowl. Oval. Just
the thing for a fan Arrangement."
I'm not making a fan Arrange-
"No? Well, I think it would do
very nicely for one of the Japanese
I'm not using Japanese lines,"
There was a silence. Then,
"You're not going to try a Hogarth
"No. It's not the sort of thing you
can describe, Barbara. You'll just
have to see it. When I'm ready."
"I can come by any evening."
Fortunately, Barbara works. "Sup-
pose I come by this evening and
bring you the bowl?"
"I already have a base," I lied.
"I'll call you when I have the Ar-
rangement in shape."
"I didn't mean to interfere."
"It isn't that. It's that the thing is
— gestating. I need to feel it for a
"Of course," Barbara said, as
though I had just told her I was
calling in a medium.
ABASE. Really, I didn't want
any base at all. I needed some-
thing that was nothing.
The pastry board was too big.
But I have a lovely chopping
board, oblong, just the right size. I
scrubbed the onion and garlic smell
out of it as best I could and stuck
on a piece of starfoam with floral
Now the Moebius Strip.
His eyes were wide and puzzled.
He didn't know what he'd done.
"Why did you tear Mama's aspi-
distra leaf into strips?" A whole
bunch of them, meeting at the stem.
"It's prettier that way."
I could see what he meant.
There was something festive-look-
ing about it. Like streamers tied to
"Let's try it like it is," Tommy
He picks up these insidious co-
operative suggestions from Miss
Potter, and he has me in the midst
of family projects before I'm aware
of what's going on.
"Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to
try. Hand me a piece of that green
I gathered the ends of the
streamers together, carefully half-
looped them and wired them to the
bottom of the stem, so that the stem
was part of the curve, too. They
were pliable, but not limp or crack-
ly, from the glycerin. My idea was
to make a Dried Arrangement and
then wire in some camellias at the
If I had been a purist, I would
have left the Arrangement the way
it was, with just the one leaf. Tom-
my and I, however, are not purists.
"Go out into the garage and get
me six dried okra pods off the
shelf," I said. "I am a fairy god-
"Which ones is the okra?" Tom-
"The stripy ones."
Tommy was back in a flash.
"What are you going to turn them
"A handsome young Dried Ar-
"Can I stick some in?"
I wired them all and put in five,
their slight crescents all curving in
the same direction. Tommy put the
sixth one in, curving, of course, in
the wrong direction.
Still, you know, it didn't look
"Now," I said, "we need some-
thing behind it. For a background.
Something pale. Go into the
garage," I commanded, waving my
magic floral wire, "and get me four
ferns. They're between the sheets
It's obvious what's wrong with
all this. You should never use an
even number of things in a flower
arrangement. It's gauche and bour-
geois and almost as bad as serving
JUST as I was really getting
started, Ronald came in de-
"How am I ever going to get
my Arrangement made if people
keep interrupting?" I said, because
I was knee-deep in weeds and it
was infuriating to have to stop.
"Don't you and Tommy ever think
of anything but food?"
I opened cans of this and that,
like the ladies on television. Ronald
and Tommy ate morosely and of
course the Tylers dropped by after
dinner and Marcelle said, "What
is that?" And I said, "Oh, it isn't
finished yet," and Tommy said, "/
helped," and Marcelle said, "That's
awfully clever of Tommy to help
make something. But tell me, dear,
have you ever wondered about his
No, I hadn't, but it was my sub-
conscious, and after that I kept
wondering, Why is my subcon-
scious like a Moebius Strip? The
best answer I could come up with
was that it's because it has a half-
twist in it
But the next morning I got the
fern in exactly right, balancing the
five okra pods with three large
ferns and the wrong-way one with
a small fern. The aspidistra showed
up beautifully against the fragile
dried road fern.
Then, of course, Tommy and
Ronald revolted against my Crea-
tive Period, each in his own way.
Tommy fell down and split his lip
wide open, requiring stitches, and
Ronald came down with the flu,
requiring continuous bed care.
I'd rather be locked up with two
And then Marcelle called and
said the pot holders had to be done
by the next week, so every time I
had an odd moment I had to sit
down and work on that wretched
"I'll resign!" I screamed one day,
hurling a half-appliqued pot holder
across the room. "Do you know that
I still have the bias binding to sew
on? And, Ronald, they're round"
"For God's sake, resign! I've
never heard of making pot holders
foi a garden club, anyway."
"It's for our bazaar. And I can't
resign before the show. I wouldn't
be able to make the Arrangement."
"Which would suit me just fine,"
Ronald said. "Where's my pipe?"
"Did you look on your pipe
"There's a tube of toothpaste on
my pipe rack."
"Then your pipe's in the medi-
By the time Tommy was back
in school and Ronald was back at
work, I had one day to finish my
T> ARBARA, of course, had been
-*-* calling every night "to find
out how everybody is," and hint-
ing for me to let her take over.
Somewhere, probably out of sheer
irritation, I found the strength of
mind to refuse her.
"But you'll need my Pink Per-
fections," Barbara said. "After all,
it's a camellia show."
''Couldn't you meet me before
the show? I'm going over at eight
o'clock and Ronald's going to drop
Tommy off at school for me. The
show doesn't start until nine. You
could stop by on the way to work."
I'll be there at eight o'clock,"
Barbara said. "How many Pink
Perfections do you want me to
bring? Three? Five?"
"Four," I said, and hung up be-
fore she could even gasp.
I worked most of the night. I
filled in the curve of the Moebius
Strip with some soft, sort of thistle
down things. I covered the star-
foam with curly moss and left the
rest of the chopping board bare. I
worked in the mindless way that
produces the best effect.
The alarm went ^off at six. I
hopped out of bed and darted
about the chilly house to get my
family clothed and fed and out. I
was more excited than I ought to
have been over a flower show. Fd
stuck my neck out too far, refusing
to let Barbara help. And using a
totally unorthodox Arrangement.
And furthermore — you don't ordi-
narily think of Flower Arranging
as a vice, but it was something
nasty in me that made me volun-
teer to do it, and to exclude Bar-
bara, who after all needs to make
Flower Arrangements because she
doesn't have any children. And if
one is going to have a vice at all,
and neglect home and family and
friends, one ought to be able to
say, "There, at least I got a prize."
I broke the eggs into a bowl and
got the bacon started. Then I
popped into the living room and
turned the light on for a quick look
at my Moebius Strip. There was
something not quite right about it.
For one thing, it no longer looked
like a Moebius Strip. On the other
hand, it didn't look nor like a Moe-
The bacon started complaining
and I went to separate the pieces
and at this point Tommy woke up
and informed me that he was wet,
as is his tendency on cold mornings.
Then Ron said he couldn't find his
cuff links and the cat started yowl-
ing to come in and I didn't have
time to think about anything at all.
Until I started in to get my
flower Arrangement to bring to
the John £). Ransom auditorium,
where the show was going to be.
Then Tommy said, "I fixed it for
you." And so he had. It looked
Moebius, only more so.
Barbara was waiting for me just
inside the door, her arms wrapped
around herself, doing a little two-
step to warm up. The auditorium
was like a vault and the heating
system was just getting started,
with random, thunderous shrieks.
"Why, Sally JoF Barbara cried,
stopping in mid-two-step. "It's in-
CARRIED the Arrangement
over to the niche marked east-
bank GARDEN GROUP. ARRANGE-
MENT BY SALLY JO WARNER. I set
it down carefully, though Barbara
says an Arrangement should al-
ways be so tight you can turn it up-
side down and shake it.
Interesting! I had a moment of
wild triumph and then I was a little
ashamed of myself. Barbara was
generous enough to like it.
"However," Barbara said, press-
ing her lips together and making
me feel normal again, "where are
we going to put the Pink Perfec-
Barbara opened the shallow box
with four camellias in it. They
were, of course, perfect and spot-
less and exactly alike. I can under-
stand how Barbara manages to dis-
cipline her house and her dog and
her husband, but I have never fig-
ured out how anyone can discipline
"The camellias? Oh, yes, the
camellias . . ."
There was a baffled bellow from
Ronald. He was trying to get Tom-
my's snowsuit off. I ran over before
the zipper or Tommy could get
jammed. The instant I had the
snowsuit off, there was a wail from
Tommy. "She ruined my Flower
My heart sank. "No, no, dear,"
I said, hurrying after him to where
Barbara was, but he was right.
There were bits of weed and fluff
piled up on the floor and a gleam
of joy in Barbara's eyes, and there
was nothing left of the fascinating
shape Tommy and I had made.
"See?" I went on. "It's beautiful.
Ifs a perfect Hogarth Curve." It
was. It didn't droop at all. And Bar-
bara had made the Arrangement.
"There was something funny in /
there," Barbara said. "I thought it
must be Tommy's, so I saved it."
"It's my inside-out balloon,"
Tommy said, his chin quivering,
"and she turned it back right-side
It was Tommy's multi-colored
balloon, and it really didn't look
much like a balloon any more,
though it was still blown up. "How
did your balloon get in there?"
"I put it in," Tommy said, "to
make the Arrangement more
rounder. It's the roundest thing I
ever made." Tears were gathering
in his eyes.
"Now, dear, I don't know why I
didn't see it."
"I put it in after you made it.
Then I blew it up and tied it and
poked in the end. It was the round-
est thing in the whole world!"
"But it's still tied! See? So no-
body could have turned it right-
side out. It looks the same on both
"No, it don't. The other side got
magnetic paint on it Thafs why
the balloon got ripples in it"
Ron had been standing around
looking impatient and he said,
"Tommy, there's no such thing as
"There is, too," Tommy said. "I
"How did you make it?"
"You mix up silver paint like
you use for Christmas Arrange-
ments and you add that silver glit-
ter that you sprinkle and then you
add all the old magnets you have
around and you stir it good."
"How many old magnets?" I
"Lots and lots and lots."
"Then you turn the balloon in-
side out and blow it up anji pinch
the end with a clothes pin and paint
it and theivwhen it's dry you let
the air out."
"And just why do you do all
this?" Ron asked.
f THHAT was a silly question and
■*■ Tommy didn't bother to answer
"What about the magnets?" I
"You bury them in the back
"Oh. And do metal things stick
on the magnetic paint?"
"Well — hair does, if you brush
"I think they do. A teeny bit. But
now it's all on the wrong side and
"I have to get to work," Ron said.
"Here, catch." I tossed the bal-
loon to Tommy.
It stayed up in the middle of the
"See?" Tommy said. "It's no
good no more."
We all stood staring, in a state of
"It's a funny shape," Ron said
finally. "Those puckers sort of go
in and if you follow that striated
band ... if you follow . . ."
I was trying to follow it with my
". . . you get vertigo," Ron fin-
ished, looking off in another direc-
"Yes, you do," I said. "Well, we
can't just leave it here. Tommy,
would you like to take it to show
"Miss Potter, hell!" Ron ex-
claimed. "There's something extra-
ordinary about this. I'm going to
take it down to work with me and
let the boys at the lab have a look
at it. I've never seen anything that
just stayed in mid-air like that. You
notice it doesn't seem to float, as it
would if it contained a gas, and . . ."
But I was busy apologizing to
Barbara for Tommy's manners and
assuring her the Hogarth Curve
I pinned the left-over camellia
in my hair, because I felt I de-
served something, and Ron said
he'd drop Tommy and me off at
"Isn't it marvelous," I asked Ron
as I wiped off the windshield, be-
cause Tommy kept huffing on it,
"to have a son who's an important
scientist before the age of six?"
"Now don't be getting delusions
of grandeur about him," Ron said.
"Whatever you and he made was
"That goes to show what you
know about the scientific method.
I was making a Moebius Arrange-
ment and Tommy was making the
roundest thing in the whole world,
and when you're working on some-
thing and something else happens,
something scientifically important,
it's called — I can't remember what
it's called, but it's a perfectly good
word beginning with R. Or maybe
"Serendipity. But you and Tom-
my . . . Never mind."
T ATER on in the morning, Ron
■■-^ called to tell me to go see a
man named Craddock over at the
lab, and I'd have to go by myself
because Ron was busy, and I said,
"All right," but it wasn't all right.
The thought of going to that
strange place to talk to important
men was terrifying.
I opened my closet and looked
unhappily through my inappropri-
ate house dresses and equally in-
appropriate party dresses. I finally
decided on my black skirt, dark
gray sweater and white cotton
blouse, which I hoped would give
the impression of a businesslike
On the way down on the street-
car, I found a woman staring at me
and I realized I had been practic-
ing my facial expression. It was the
one where I hang a cigarette out of
the side of my mouth, narrow my
eyes to a slit, and say, "I'm Warner.
What actually happened was
that an office boy said, "What are
you so nervous about, lady?" and
brought me through a maze of for-
bidding-looking chambers and de-
posited me on a bench facing a
back that was, presumably, Crad-
I sat there trying to decide
whether to address him or just wait,
when he turned, looked at me, and
jumped two feet.
"I didn't know anyone was
there," he explained, and since he
was the one who had acted a little
silly, I felt much better about him
I'm sorry," I said. "I was just
sitting here trying to decide . . ."
That wouldn't do. "My name's
Warner," I said, omitting the facial
"Sally Jo Warner."
"And you discovered this new-
"If you mean the right-side-in-
side-out balloon," I answered, "yes.
With my son. Thomas." I decided
that if he was going to be a scien-
tist, we should stop calling him
f^ RADDOCK was one of those
^^ thin, pale, freckled-all-over
people with eyes the color of the
rims of his horri-rimmed glasses
and he wore the same general ex-
pression of stubborn intentness
that Tommy has. And I could
sense in his expression the same
scorn for me that Tommy so fre-
"I'd like to discuss this with your
son," he said.
Of course. / couldn't be expected
to say anything sensible.
"Thomas has school in the morn-
ings," I said.
"Ah? Urn. Which school?"
"It's a small private school. Kin-
dergarten through third grade."
"A third-grade child did this!"
"No. Kindergarten. And I was
not without influence in this dis-
covery. I went to Grey Rock Junior
"I mean what sciences?"
"We learned all the sciences in
one course. Chemistry, biology,
physics and— well, I'd have to look
in the book to remember the
"Never mind," Craddock said, a
shudder going through his slight,
clattery frame. "Just tell me how
you did this." He nodded at the
balloon, which was encased in a
glass box with a tube sort of thing
leading into it.
"Well, first you take an aspidis-
tra leaf ..." I began, and went on
from there. Craddock wrote it all
down, though he kept saying, "I just
don't see how the balloon fits into
all this," and finally I said, "Now
we get to the balloon. And the mag-
"Where did you get the magnetic
"My colleague made it."
Craddock was awfully picayu-
nish about details. "How much
silver paint? How much is 'the rest
of a pack of glitter'?" Then he was
disturbed because lots and lots and
lots of magnets is eight.
When I got to the part where
Barbara made a Hogarth Curve out
of my Moebius Strip, I asked him
for a cigarette because I was still
upset over it.
"I know how you feel," Crad-
dock said, being agreeable for the
first time. "I don't think it's right
to make a Hogarth Curve out of a
Moebius Strip, either. I wouldn't
even think it was possible."
"Well, that's all," I said, and
Craddock grabbed my cigarette be-
fore I dropped it into what looked
like an empty dish. "I have to rush
off and pick up my colleague at
N the way to Miss Nicholls, my
mind was afire with ambition.
Tommy would appear on TV.
Everyone would forget about the
time Tommy smeared Miss Pot-
ter's chair with mucilage right be-
fore she sat down. He'd be offered
scholarships to MIT. He'd dictate
articles for scientific journals and
I'd write them up.
And if anyone ever made re-
marks about my thinking ability
again, I'd just say, "My method
About two o'clock that after-
noon, Craddock called and bawled,
"The force field is leaking! Another
hour and it'll all be gone!"
"Stop sounding as though it's my
fault," I said.
"Sorry. I'm just anxious."
"Why don't you catch the drip-
pings in a pot or something?"
"We tried to. But you should see
the cloud chamber."
I said, "I'm sure the cloud cham-
ber is very interesting," because it
was none of his business if I didn't
know what a cloud chamber was.
"The lines just wiggle and dis-
appear into another dimension. I
don't know how else to describe it"
"What's making it leak?"
"There's something unusual in
the nuclei of the atoms. They're
"Tommy blew up the balloon," I
said, and wondered if he had cavi-
ties, though of course it was a dif-
ferent kind of decay. Still the
thought made me a little nervous.
"We're getting photographs of
everything," Craddock went on,
"but what's worrying us is that we
haven't been able to duplicate the
— uh — experiment."
I'll bet you didn't soak the
aspidistra in glycerin. You couldn't
have. There hasn't been time."
"Glycerin wouldn't have any-
thing to do with it. For that matter,
neither would the aspidistra."
"Plants," I informed him, "even
dried ones, have all sorts of influ-
ence. If you put a bouquet of roses
in a room, the whole room and all
the furniture is a different shape."
"That's your subjective reaction.
It's because you like roses."
"There! That proves my point!
Why does the lamb love Mary so?"
i^RADDOCK choked a little.
V^ "Mrs. Warner . : . all right,
why does the lamb love Mary so?"
"They learn things like this at
Miss Nicholls," I pointed out. "The
answer is, 'Mary loves the lamb,
you know.' People like roses be-
cause roses like people. Which
means roses have something you
don't know about."
"All right , there are things I don't
know. The first thing I don't know
is how to carry on an intelligible
conversation with you. But let's
skip everything except what I
called you for. Will you and your
colleague please make another of
those balloon affairs?"
"I doubt if it can be done."
"Why? If there are any mate-
rials you need, I can certainly—"
"It isn't that. It's - well, what-
ever we do, ifs going to be a little
bit different. And I don't know if
Tommy can find where he turied
the magnets. But I'll try."
But before I went shouting
around for Tommy, I called Bar-
bara, because something had oc-
curred to me while I was talking
to Craddock and it was only decent
to tell Barbara.
"What time," I asked, "do the
judges come around tonight?"
"About seven-thirty," Barbara
"I'm sorry, but you ought to
know. We're not going to win."
"Your Hogarth Curve," I said,
thinking of the leaking balloon, "is
going to droop at three o'clock,"
and left the explanation for later.
I found Tommy in the back
yard, deeply involved with sticks
and bits of string and old nails.
I knew immediately and sadly
what he was doing.
It was too bad Tommy wasn't
going to be a famous scientist be-
fore the age of six, but that was
mostly just a joke. And it was too
bad the Eastbank Garden Group
wasn't going to win a prize in the
Federated Gardens Show, but it
was no longer my Arrangement,
anyway, and Barbara's always
winning other prizes for us. And it
was too bad Craddock wasn't go-
ing to have his force field, but he
hadn't been very nice about the
No, the real tragedy was that
Tommy was going to be bitterly
unhappy about something I had
absolutely no control over.
CALLED Craddock and tried
to explain to him why Tommy
would never in the world get inter-
ested in making another Moebius
Strip thing. And there's no way to
make a child create . something,
any more than you can make him
"You see," I told Craddock, who
was sputtering helplessly on the
other end of the line, "he's already
made the roundest thing in the
whole world. It's not really hard to
make the roundest thing in the
whole world. I mean, things tend
to be round, and all you have to
do is follow a tendency. But now
he's working on something else and
he'll keep at it and won't think
about anything else and it's going
to be tragic when he finds out it
just can't be done."
"And what is he trying to do?"
Craddock managed to say.
"He's trying to make the
squarest thing in the whole world."
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BY CON BLOMBERG
To five different and exciting
lives, all I had to do was sign
here— and give up my own life!
Illustrated by MORROW
LOOKING out the window,
I saw them crossing the
court toward the building —
two of them. One, the taller with
yellow hair, was carrying a flat, ex-
pensive briefcase, and the other,
of course, was carrying the large
square box that contained the Sim.
The buzzer sounded, announc-
ing them at the door, and I opened
it with mixed feelings. I wasn't
sure myself how I would act and—
well, you hear so many stories
about EL, and this was really my
first contact with them.
They were standing out in front,
looking just like a couple of door-
to-door salesmen. And that's just
what they were, even if they were
called Electro Medical Consul-
tants. Just a fancy name for sales-
They were very neat in appear-
ance, just as good salesmen should
be. Their hats looked new and so
did their shoes.
"Ah, Mr. Gaines," said the yel-
low-haired one, sticking out his
neatly manicured but definitely
masculine hand, "I'm very happy
to meet you, sir." His grin could
only be described as sincerely
"Come in," I said, feeling like
smiling back, so effectively pleas-
ant were their grins. "Come in and
sit down, won't you?"
So they came in, doffing their
hats, and sat down in two chairs
that I ordinarily didn't use. They
seemed to know instinctively
which was my favorite chair. Oh,
they were smooth!
"Now, Mr. Gaines," said the
light-haired man, "perhaps I should
start off with a little introduction
all around and a short explanation
of what Electronic Living can
mean to you."
No one had mentioned EL up
to that point, yet they knew with-
out a doubt that I had correctly
identified them. Talk about con-
fidence—it was like a physical force
in the room.
I'm Jake Long and this is Arnie
Blik," said the light-haired one, ris-
ing and gripping my hand with a
warm, dry, just right handshake.
"Pleased to meet you," said Blik,
gripping my hand in turn with an
identical warm, dry, just right
"I'm going to ask you for a bit
of your time," said Long, "and I
certainly hope you can grant us a
few minutes without too much in-
about having plenty of time.
That was a laugh, and he and I both
knew it. I had so little to do, I al-
most welcomed them just for sheer
"Well, that's fine," said Long,
"but rest assured we aren't going to
try to waste any of your time. We
intend to make it short and sweet,
as they say." He did such a good
job of keeping up the fiction of me
being a busy man that I almost be-
lieved it myself.
"You probably know more about
Electronic Living than I do," he
said, and I felt for an instant that
I did, "but we'll go over it anyway
just so you understand me a little
better. You'll remember back in
1958-1959 there was a lot of work
done — or I should say a beginning
made — in developing an electronic
eye for people who had lost their
eyesight. This was a start of Elec-
tronic Living in its crudest form.
These early pioneers, using what
little knowledge was available of
the brain then, were actually able
to insert a probe in the brain and
enable the blind person to 'see'
light. At first it was just the dif-
ference between light and dark, but
after a while they did develop a
kind of vision — and then finally,
after much work, the system grew
into actual electronic vision.
"This was, as I said, the start of
Electronic Living because it ad-
vanced the basic premise that the
brain can utilize outside electrical
impulses for its own purposes.
And of course it wasn't long be-
fore some experimenters had
rigged up a human television re-
ceiver. What they did was set up
a series of brain probes which
were directly connected to a small
television receiving apparatus, and
the subject could then 'see' the
broadcast image without the use
of his eyes.
"Since this rough beginning, we
at El have done a lot of work, and
we are now able to reproduce
every sort of physical sensation
known to man through electronic
"And recently, as a further re-
finement, we have been able to
capture internal brain voltages
and use them to reproduce
thoughtlike sensations. Unfortu-
nately, these are still in the realm
of strong emotions and not true
thoughts, but they are extremely
"Now, it is this combination of
physical sensation voltages and in-
ternal brain voltages, when fed
into your brain from a simple tape
like this, that produces what we
call Electronic Living.'
With that he pulled a piece of
tape out of his pocket as if pro-
ducing an elephant
RNIE Blik hadn't said a word
up to this point. He had hung
on every word his partner uttered
as though it were all new to him.
Now he took up the song.
"May I ask if you've ever ex-
perienced Electric Living?" he
"No," I said. I really had once
or twice, but I figured it was none
of his business.
"Ah. Well, if you have no ob-
jection, I'd like to use this Simu-
lator here for a few minutes and
give you a bare idea of what's go-
ing on in Electronic Living today."
"Sure," I said. "Go right ahead."
Blik opened up the Sim and
fished out a hat that was shaped
much like a medieval knight's hel-
met, except that it had a couple of
big fat wires connected to it at
"Just a moment while I tune it
in," Blik said, lowering the helmet
part way over his head. He closed
his eyes and began fiddling with
a series of small knots and buttons
which were mounted inside the
case. Finally he took it off his head
and approached me, carrying this
ridiculous helmet like it was a
crown on a velvet pillow.
"You will be experiencing a bas-
ketball player," he said, and
plopped it down over my head.
When the helmet came down,
there was a momentary blank per-
iod, and then suddenly I was a
basketball player who was playing
a fast professional game. I was
good, or should say he was? He
felt exultation because his team
was ahead and he'd put them
there with a difficult shot. I could
feel the pounding of his heart and
the strain of his chest as he gulped
in huge quantities of air. His eyes
ranged around the court, following
his teammates and opponents.
It was something, all right, but
not everything, because on top of
the sensations and emotions of the
basketball player, I was getting
another series of feelings and emo-
tion which were my own.
Superimposed on the other
players on the court was the image
of my own living room with the
two men watching rpe. Over the
smell of sweat of the basketball
players came the odor of my apart-
ment. Above the sensation of run-
ning, jumping and colliding with
other players was the sensation
of sitting in my favorite chair with
a weight on my head.
In short, I was two people at
Even the emotions of the bas-
ketball player — joy at making a
basket, a flare of rage at a rough
opponent, and the surge of hope
that a teammate would come
through — were clouded over with
my own emotions of not complete-
ly accepting as right the whole
concept of EL, coupled with the
feeling that I didn't want to show
any reaction in front of the EL
After a short time, Blik re-
moved the Sim, and the basketball
player's Life Experience faded
away. The two EL men looked at
"Hmmm," I said, forcing myself
to appear neutral. They did not
seem to be disappointed by my
reaction or lack of it.
UITE an experience, wasn't
it?" said Blik, putting the
Sim down on the floor. "Of course
you realize that you don't get the
full effect because you actually
have two primary sets of electric
images going into the brain. We
never have been able to overcome
the subject's own real physical
and mental sensation with a de-
vice that works outside the skull."
"But I'm sure Mr. Gaines get?
the idea," said Long.
I'm sure I do," I said. The
damn thing was plenty intriguing,
but somehow, despite all its good
points, I wasn't really sold on it.
"Perhaps you'd be interested in
the kind of thing we have pro-
grammed for our EL subscribers,"
said Long with a kindly smile. "If
you are someone who likes active
sports, we can give you an evening
of that kind of thing. We don't pro-
gram sports in the daytime or early
evening because it interferes with
the regular sports consumers, but
it's nice to have later on in the
evening if you like it."
I nodded in what I hoped was
a cold manner.
"Perhaps you'd like the milieu
built up around a hard-working
farmer or laborer for a daytime
program. A certain amount of
physical labor which is coupled
with a strong emotion of accom-
plishment and pride. An excellent
milieu and one of our most popu-
"Very interesting," I said non-
commitally, intrigued in spite of
Then it was Blik's turn. "If you
are interested in the social type
of thing, we have several new mil-
ieus that fit right in with this sort
of thing. I can recall one of a
formal dinner party which has
strong emotional connotations of
well-being and a sense of — gran-
deur — yes, grandeur in the old
meaning of the word. And in this
same milieu it is possible to get
the bon-vivant type of thing. You
know, the raconteur who is a real
spellbinder. That has a strong emo-
tion of ego-fulfillment."
"Very interesting," I said again,
"but it doesn't quite fill the bill as
far as I'm -"
"Arnie, we've been overlooking
the obvious," said Long. "Mr.
Gaines is looking more for the in-
tellectual type of Life Experience.
Now, I recall one of a sculptor
which has a fine feel to it. Ex-
tremely intellectual and yet artis-
tically creative, if you know what
I mean. And then there's an ex-
tremely thrilling milieu dealing
with a symphony conductor in
which there is an absolute physi-
cal thrill that is audio-inspired.
Just the thing for anyone who is
an audiophile, I'd say."
I had to admit that it was be-
ginning to sound more appealing
all the time and I found myself
wondering just which Life Experi-
ence one would pick first if he
were to go EL.
"Of course," said Blik, with a
manly grin, "we have the thing
we call our 'playboy milieu' which
is strictly a sensual sort of a thing.
It often appeals rather strongly to
new subscribers, although I have
to warn you that it soon becomes
an Experience which palls on you."
T¥E almost had me with that
-■■■■- one, because after all I have
normal male curiosity and all that,
and naturally it's always these
"playboy milieus" that you hear
the most about among people who
are non-EL subscribers. Yes, for a
minute or two there, I was teeter-
ing on the brink, but my better
sense did ultimately win out and
I could feel the emotion of resist-
ance welling up inside me.
"Well, actually, gentlemen, it
isn't a case of not finding the right
milieu, because I'm sure you have
anything that I could ever want.
It's more on philosophical grounds
that I find that I hesitate to go
along with Electronic Living," I
said boldly. Just saying it gave me
a tremendous lift.
"Ah," said Long, looking at the
ceiling and making a tent of his
fingers in front of his chest. "I al-
ways enjoy talking with a man
who has a philosophical bent. In
fact," he said, unfolding the tent
and leaning close to me and lower-
ing his voice a little, "it's the one
big pleasure I get out of this job."
"I'm afraid that I have to agree
with you there, Jack," said Blik,
digging his toe into the rug in a
distinctly boyish manner.
^YJf/'HY don't you sort of fill us
™ in on your thinking, Mr.
Gaines?" urged Long.
"Well," I said, feeling warm un-
der the collar and allowing my hand
to tremble slightly with emotion
as I got into what I now realized
was the meat of my resistance to
EL. "Well, let's take it from the
word go. If I sign up with you
now, I'll go down to the Electronic
Living Center tomorrow or the
next day and they'll take me into
an operating room and put some
tiny probes into my brain, and
aside from a momentary twinge or
two, I won't feel a thing. And then
when it's over I'll walk out of the
room looking just the way I did
before, except that I'll have a neat
little connection mounted high on
the left side of my head where it
can oe tastefully covered with hair
when not in use.
"And I'll probably come back
to this apartment to find the Elec-
tronic Living Machine installed in
that corner, tastefully decorated
to look like an old-fashioned an-
tique bookcase, or a modern bar,
or whatever I want it to look like.
But whatever it looks like, there
will be a comfortable chair unob-
trusively attached to the ELM and
sooner or later I'll sit down in that
chair and read over the list of Life
Experiences and select one.
"Then I'll sink back in the chair
and the little connection on my
head will fit neatly into another
little connection on the chair, be-
cause my chair will fit only me,
and it will fit me perfectly.
"And then, while I drift off to
EL-land, the chair will unfold
arcund me so that all sight and
sound and almost all feeling will
disappear and I'll be like a chrysa-
lis in a cocoon.
"So for two or three or eight
hours I'll stay inside the cocoon,
living another person's life. And
while I'm in there, everyone will
be sighing a sigh of relief that
here is another potential producer
who has finally given up the ghost
and turned consumer.
"Then when the tape is through,
the cocoon will open and I'll wake
up tired or refreshed or satiated or
somehow changed, and then I'll
get out to the food center and dial
a meal or call someone up, or go
out and walk around or some-
I WAS really getting wound up,
but Long broke in on me. "Tell
me a little more," he said, "about
that one idea, will you? You know,
the idea about how you will give
up being a producer and will be
"I was just coming to that," I
said hotly. "Yes, they'll probably
enroll my name on the EL sub-
scribers roll with a big cheer, and
all my non-EL friends will hear
about it and they'll raise their
eyebrows, or maybe they'll sign
"But the point is this. Is it
right for me, a big, strong, healthy
human being with powers of per-
ception and reasoning and a capa-
bility for work and creativeness—
is it right for me to substitute this
dream world of EL for actual real
thinking, or doing, or creating?
Do any of us have the right to sub-
vert our normal impulses for crea-
tion and for living in this way?"
"A good question," said Long
with a sigh. "I'm afraid he's put it
in pretty unanswerable terms, all
right. Except for one minor point,
I couldn't help but agree with
everything he said, in spite of the
fact that I — well, I'm sold on EL,
We sat for a while just sort of
gazing around at nothing.
Finally Blik spoke up. "What
was that one point that you dis-
agreed on Jack?" he asked his
partner. "I've been running Mr.
Gaines' statement over in my mind
and I can't seem to find the flaw
'Oh, it was nothing." said Long
impatiently. "Just a minor point."
"No, I mean it," said Blik. "I'd
really like to know."
"Not worth talking about. Let's
pack up and not take any more
of Mr. Gaines' time."
"Come on, Jack, tell me what it
was," said Blik, in a rather posi-
tive way, I thought.
"Really, Arnie," said Long, fir-
ing up a little, "take it easy, will
you? We don't want to have to
argue about some little point that
doesn't mean anything. Just forget
His attitude changed quickly
from irritation to downright nasti-
ness. Apparently, as head of the
sales team, he wasn't going to take
anything from a subordinate. It
kind of irritated me in turn, be-
cause he gave me the impression
that he felt as if he was too good
to talk with us about it.
"All right, all right," said Blik,
"the hell with it. So it was a minor
"Why not tell him?" I asked
Long, cutting in quickly as Blik
made a move to pack up the Sim.
I ONG turned toward me with a
" supercilious look that put me
in the same category as assistants
who had the temerity to question
the boss. Then in an instant the
mask returned and he was just as
polite and smooth as ever — but
I'd' seen the crack in the slickness
before he changed. It really got me
where I live. That's one thing I
can't stand — an assault on the
ego by a slick bum like that, who
thinks he's so good.
"Oh, I don't see how it can be
that small a point," I said. "Espe-
cially if you thought of it." I said
the last part as insultingly as I
knew how, and I saw the color rise
in his face.
"Yes, speak up," said Blik, sid-
ing with me. "He's got a right to
"All right," said Long with some
asperity that even the professional
mask couldn't hide, "but I warn
you that it's strictly a minor
"So it's a minor," said Blik." Tell
"The point is," said Long, after
a short pause to collect his
thoughts, "that EL fills a need for
some people. You see, with the
big upsurge in automation years
ago, it got harder and harder for
a production-oriented economy to
survive. Jobs got fewer and easier.
People were thrown out of work.
During the early years of automa-
tion, there was a lot of population
displacement because of a lack of
jobs, and this made for a lot of
economic juggling which really
didn't help matters.
"It wasn't until some ten years
ago that people finally came to
the conclusion that production was
outstripping the need for labor and
that, in fact, production was begin-
ning to become a burden on the
economy. And so they turned
things around a bit. Instead of giv-
ing rewards and subsidies to the
production end of the economy,
they began giving it to the con-
suming end. That was really the
only way out of the hole.
"But it was soon found that peo-
ple are not merely organisms
geared to consume. At first it was
grand and glorious, but after a bit
the urge to create, to work, to
think began to assert itself strong-
ly, and that's where EL came
along. EL was developed to give
unsatisfied people satisfactions that
they couldn't get anywhere else.
They couldn't be allowed to pro-
duce because that was what was
wrecking things. So they had to
be provided with a synthetic 'pro-
"Today these producer-minded
people can get any sort of satisfac-
tion they need from EL, and it
keeps them from wandering around
trying to produce something that
would just be a hindrance. After
all, what we need is consumership,
"But that's a relatively minor
point, as I said earlier," Long con-
cluded looking at me with a su-
perior air. "It's such a minor point,
it won't even bear discussion. ,,
TTIS manner, underneath the
■*--*• slick facade, implied that he
wouldn't deign to discuss it with
two peasants like Blik and me un-
der any circumstances.
"Just a minute " I said. "It's nor
a minor point at all. It seems to
me that you've hit the core of the
"A minor point," insisted Long,
his eyes blazing, although his face
retained the mask of the smiling
"Perhaps I didn't make myself
clear," I said. "Have you ever
stopped to think that if you take
EL into the larger picture, it does
serve a purpose, and perhaps we
are all here for a different reason
than I had originally discussed?
Maybe the thing to be is a super-
consumer — maybe definitive con-
sumership is the most vital thing
in our life, not the production of
"Well, that's an idea, sure
enough," said Blik suddenly. He
had been silent during the flare-
up between Long and me. "But I
can't help but think," he continued,
"that your original argument was
a little tighter. The old virtues do
have a place, don't they?"
You see how slick, how well-
trained, how cunning they were?
When Blik opened his mouth, the
bubble burst, and I knew that they
had neatly switched me around to
where I was arguing against my-
self. Up until the instant Blik
started talking, I was actually sell-
ing myself on EL, and the truth
was that I had almost completed
the job by that time. If he had re-
mained silent, I probably would
have signed the contract — I think
I would have fought to sign it
I felt an emotion of strength
and power then. A top EL team
had given me the works and I had
seen through them. They still
didn't know they had lost, but they
would — just as soon as I opened
my mouth to speak. The emotion
of victory is sweeter than almost
anything else, and all the sweeter
for having skirted defeat.
"You know, Arnie," I said, "I
agree with you. The old virtues
are best. I think EL is a living
Jt was a sight to see, believe
me. Their slick, slick faces folded
like paper houses in a hurricane.
Blik's hands were shaking as he
bent over and started packing up
the Sim without another word.
You have to be good to know that
fast that you have lost irrevocably.
They got up then and scooped
their hats up from the floor and
put them on. The gracious, gentle-
manly conduct was a thing of the
"Tell me," said Long, his hand
on the door, the edge of the EL
contract peeking untidily out of
his expensive briefcase, "where did
we make our mistake?"
I laughed a good loud whoop. It
felt good. "It was when Arnie here
"Stupid fool," said Long, look-
ing as though he wanted to slam
the square box containing the Sim
over Blik's head.
"Sorry, old man," Blik said, col-
oring a deep red. "I'll try to make
it up next time."
"Not with me, you won't," said
They opened the door and
went out. I jigged with glee as I
looked out the window and
watched them cross the court.
Long was walking along in a high
dudgeon, his briefcase swinging
angrily with every step. Blik was
trotting along to one side and be-
hind him, his shoulders slumped,
defeat written all over his form
I LOOKED around as the wall
■*■ swung open and Rommy
walked in with his hand out-
"Congratulations!" he said, beam-
ing widely. "It was perfect! My
God, it's a delight for a director
to work with a real group of com-
petent actors. All three of you
"Thanks," I said. "I hope I was
as good as you think when we play
the tape back." I felt along the
base of my skull where the trans-
mitter hung encased in Natur-fiesh
and covered with fake hair. I could
hardly believe it was there, it felt
Rommy looked out the window.
Long and Blik were walking back
through the gate, talking and wav-
ing their arms the way people do
when they're excited about doing
a good job.
"There's a pair of sweethearts,"
said Rommy. "Real actors, those
boys. I checked out the transmis-
sion right up to the last minute
and they really gave out — you
couldn't find a quiver of disbelief
or strain. They felt it."
"So did I," I said, sitting down
and putting my feet up on a low
table on the set. "Tell me, Rom-
my, what in hell is EL going to use
these tapes for, anyway? It seems
to me it would be sort of danger-
ous to put all this on tape."
"We couldn't tell you before be-
cause it might have spoiled your
reactions, but we have a lot of EL
subscribers who are down deep op-
posed to EL, and this tape will be
sort of a catharsis for them. It'll
give them a real jolt."
"Oh, producer types who are
struggling to become consumer
types," I said. "They'll experience
the role I just got through play-
ing, and it will make them feel
they didn't sign the contract, huh?"
"There's more to it than that,"
said Rom my. "There are some
people who just like to experience
an extremely strong sales-resistant
emotion, mostly because they're
pushovers. We wouldn't make a
tape like this just for the anti-EL
jerks. It's too expensive."
"Tell me," I said, "what are
you using Long and Blik for? I
thought I detected transmitters on
"Just the opposite from what
you were doing. Some people like
to experience a setback or even a
complete failure now and then.
Sort of an opposite to the 'high'
tapes. Lord knows we got hun-
dreds of 'high' tapes, but not many
low ones, so we're starting to build
a library of them now. A lot of
subscribers are getting tired of win-
ning all the time and they'd like
to experience a defeat or two once
in a while just for the contrast."
Long and Blik came in the
door without knocking.
Rommy was on his feet in an
instant. "Boys," he shouted, "you
were great! I checked the tapes
and nobody could be lower than
you guys walking out across that
court. It was sensational. Probably
the best thing that's ever been
done here at EL Studios!"
— CON BLOMBERG
^fc . ^
By GEORGE O. SMITH
Nothing can possibly be more baffling than
a crime in a sealed room . . . but what if the
investigator happens to have an open mind?
Illustrated by FINLAY
• ■ •
I. TOOK a quick look around
the apartment, even though
I already knew what I had
Gordon Andrews had been slain
in his sleep by the quick thrust of
some rapierlike instrument. There
was no sign of any struggle. The
wall safe stood with its door open
and its contents missing. Every
door and window was closed,
locked, burglar-bugged, and non-
openable from the inside; the front
door had been forced by the police.
Furthermore, it had been raining in
wind-whipped torrents for hours,
yet there was no trace of moisture
on any of the floors.
Of course no one had heard a
sound, and naturally there were no
Police Chief Weston spied me
and snapped, "What do you make
of it, Schnell?"
I shrugged and said, "Complete-
ly sealed room."
"Got any ideas?" he demanded.
I had a lot of ideas, but I was
not going to express myself with-
out a lot of stark evidence. I do not
yearn to have the prefix "ex-" in-
stalled in front of my title of Cap-
tain of Detectives. I'm much too
young to be retired. So instead of
trying to explain, I said, "The
modus operandi is — "
Chief Weston snorted, "Schnell,
there isn't a clue in the whole
damned building, and yet you stand
there and yap about modus oper-
"That's the point, Chief. The
cluelessness is itself the modus op-
erandi that points to — "
"You talk as if we had a whole
file of unsolved, clueless, sealed-
crime' would be one in which no
clue existed, including the fact of
the crime itself — except those clues
that were deliberately planned by
the perpetrator for some purpose
of his own."
TIE glowered at me. "What are
-■"■■ you driving at, Schnell?"
I'm trying to convince you that
we are faced with a very clever
criminal mind," I said. "A man with
a fine talent. One who plans his
crimes so well that they aren't even
recognized as criminal."
"Nonsense. You can't conceal
any crime forever."
"Forever isn't necessary, Chief.
Just long enough to cover up com-
pletely, to remove all connection.
We don't know how many bank
tellers have been running on re-
duced salary because they some-
how paid out a hundred in cashing
a ten-dollar check. We couldn't de-
mand an audit of all the big finan-
cial accounts in town, to know the
why and wherefore of the transfer
of any sum of money larger than
the limit of petty larceny."
"But now you are talking about
a sly, clever operator, Schnell. This
is a plain case of homicide and
Plain? Was he kidding himself?
I smiled crookedly. "Chief, there
is no doubt in my mind that our
crook intended to clean out Gpr-
don Andrews' safe without disturb-
"Chief," I said, "a true 'perfect ing a soul. But the imminent
awakening of Andrews presented
a physical threat that had to be
"So that is the work of your sly
"Chief, just remember that Gor-
don Andrews was an eccentric old
sourpuss who hated to do business
with bankers. Now let's suppose
that Andrews had awakened in the
morning to find his safe cleaned
out. He screeches for the cops. We
come a-roaring in with the finger-
print detail and the safe specialists
and the break-in experts. We find,"
I said with a wave of my hand,
"everything just as we found it here
and now. So we look Gordon An-
drews in the eye and tell him that
no one could get in, no one had
gotten in, and that we suspect him
of cleaning out his own safe and
yelling 'Copper' to make trouble
for the Mayor and the Commis-
sioner, who refused to appoint him
a special detail of city employees
for bodyguards last year."
"Go on, Schnell," said Chief
Weston with deadly patience.
"The homicide was a spur-of-
the-moment necessity. Had it been
planned, the crook would have
plugged Andrews with the old
man's personal Banker's Special,
which he kept on the bedside table,
and made it look like suicide."
"Know a lot about Andrews,
don't you, Schnell?"
"What do you mean, Chief?' ,
"About the Banker's Special."
"I have an excellent memory," I
said. "Andrews had a license for
the thing. The serial number is
233,467,819 and the gun and
license were acquired on August
r T , HE Chief sarcastically grunted,
■*• "Has it been fired since?"
"It was fired six times at the date
of delivery by the police laboratory
for the land-mark records," I said.
"Let's - not try being funny,
Schnell. This is a serious business.
Andrews was an eccentric old cur-
mudgeon, but he was also a philan-
thropist, and the papers will be
after our throats if we don't come
up with this super-criminal."
I "He's going to be damned tough,
"Okay, this is your project. Noth-
ing else matters until he's caught
and convicted — of homicide com-
mitted during the course of grand
robbery, meaning automatic hot
I nodded slowly.
"Just remember, Schnell — the
whole department's behind you,"
Chief Weston assured me.
I continued to nod, but his assur-
ance didn't reassure me in the least.
With about ninety-eight per cent of
the general public still not quite
willing to accept rockets, missiles
and space travel, I had a fat chance
of convincing anybody that a tele-^
path had kept guard over the slum-
bering mind of Gordon Andrews,
while a perceptive solved the com-
bination to the wall safe, so that a
kinematic could twirl the dial; that
the imminent awakening of Gordon
Andrews had indeed been an immi-
nent physical threat to a delicate
extra-sensory undertaking, and
that therefore he had been silenced
by the kinematic, with a weapon
located by the perceptive, after
warning from the telepath; after
which the crime had continued,
with the loot being floated by a
levitator along a freeway explored
by the perceptive and scouted by
the telepath and cleared of barriers
by the kinematic who opened and
debugged them as he went along —
— and that the real topper for
this whopper was that this opera-
tion was not the integrated effort
of a clever gang of extra-sensory
specialists, but rather the single-
handed accomplishment of one
highly talented Psi-man!
A Psi-man ruthless enough to
kill before he would permit his
victim to watch the turning dial,
the floating loot, the opening portal,
simply because there stood a proba-
bility that one of the two billion
persons on Earth might suspect the
phenomena as parapsychical activ-
ity, instead of the hallucinatory
ravings of a rich old eccentric who
hated the incumbent political
How best to keep a secret?
Let no one suspect that any
HPHE rain was still coming down
■*■ in wind- whipped torrents that
slatted along the avenue in drench-
ing sheets. Huddled in the scant
cover of the apartment door was a
girl of about eighteen. The rain-
coat she wore was no protection;
the wind drove the rain up under it.
Womanlike, she was struggling
with the ruins of a fashionable little
umbrella instead of abandoning it
for the tangled mess that it was.
She looked at me as I opened the
door. She was without guile. She
was wet and miserable and deter-
mined to take whatever help was
proffered, and hope afterward that
no unfair advantage would be taken
of the situation.
I showed her my I.D. card and
she read: "Howard Schnell, Cap-
tain, Special Detail." Her face
changed from cautious immobility
to a sort of wet animation, and she
added as if it were important under
the circumstances to be completely
open, "I'm Florence Wood."
I took the ruined umbrella from
her unresisting hand and stood it
in the /oyer for the janitor to dis-
pose of, and pointed out across the
rain-ponded sidewalk to the police
car. It was almost high noon, but
the rain was so heavy that the
identity of the car was by no means
conspicuous from the apartment
door. Florence Wood nodded as she
caught sight of it.
I said, "Now, I'll make a run for
it and open the door, and get in
first so that I'll be on the driver's
side. As soon as I'm out of your
way, just dive in and don't worry
about closing the door until you're
out of this rain. Catch?"
"I'd play Sir Galahad and give
you my foul-weather gear to wear,"
I said, "but you're already so wet
that it wouldn't do more than keep
the water in"
She smiled at me understand-
Then she looked at me with curi-
osity because I was standing there
waiting instead of making my dash
immediately. I thought of how my
Psi-man could have floated the loot
out of an open window and kept
the rain from soaking the floor at
the same time.
So, to make conversation, I said,
I'm waiting until my will power
builds up enough to overcome the
forces of gravity, barometric pres-
sure, and the rest of whatever goes
into the making of a howling down-
pour like this. Considering that
nature is dissipating energy equal
to a couple of hundred atom bombs
per second, it takes a bit of time
to collect the necessary amount of
Florence Wood laughed. In mere
instants she'd changed from
weather-drenched misery to a
cheerful sort of discomfort no worse
than many a human has endured
for hours at a football game. She
said with amusement, "Captain
Schnell, why don't you start the
car. and drive it over here? Seems
to me it would take less power
than stopping this storm."
"The law says that it is consid-
ered unlawful to operate a motor
vehicle from any position other
than the driver's seat," I replied.
HEN the slack in the storm
I'd been anticipating finally
arrived, I took advantage of it to
make my run across the sidewalk.
Miss Wood followed: her timing
was perfect. Everything happened
in a continuous sequence without a
stoppage at any point. The door
opened and I went in, landing hard
and bouncing deliberately on the
seat springs to hunch myself over;
Miss Wood landed and whirled in
a flurry of wet skirt and clammy
raincoat, hauling one rain-booted
ankle out of the way as the door
swung closed with a solid and satis-
I started the car and let the en-
gine idle to warm it up and dry it
off. Then I said, "Part of my duty
to the citizen includes protection
of his health and comfort as well
as protection from unlawful be-
havior. So, where do you wish to
She regarded me out of clear
gray eyes. "Don't you know?" she
asked with a quirk at the corner of
"Do I look like a mind reader?"
"Well, you did slow down the
I laughed. "Miss Wood, King
Canute would have been a hero
instead of a bum if he'd waited
until high water before he told the
tide to stop. Now, what gave you
any reason to suppose that I am
endowed with special talents?"
"Well," she said, fumbling
through her handbag for the comb,
which naturally was at the bottom,
"you did come along when I
needed help, and you did identify
yourself when I so much wanted to
know — "
about a little courtroom drama
where twelve good telepaths and
true are reading the mental testi-
mony of a witness who had located
some vital bit of evidence by per-
ception and brought it to light by
"Well, it does seem that any
truly gifted person would work for
the good of humanity."
"I doubt that being gifted with
a sense of perception would auto-
matically endow a man with a sense
"But doesn't it seem just awful
to think of anything as miraculous
as telepathy being used for —
for - "
She was trying to avoid the word
"immoral" because she was of an
age and experience that felt sensi-
tive about its use. Unfortunately
the only substitute was the word
I came to her rescue. "It's deplor-
able but true that nothing was ever
developed for the benefit of man-
kind without a few sharpshooters
quickly figuring out some way to
make it pay them a dishonest
"But it would be frightfully hard
to bamboozle a telepathic police-
man, wouldn't it?" she asked hope-
T THOUGHT of my PSI-man,
-■■ whose only mistake in the
sealed room murder of Gordon
"You've been moonbeaming Andrews had been in being so good
"And since I also remembered
that storms as violent as this always
have lulls, you put two and two
together? Well, it doesn't require
telepathy to conclude that you are
soaked to the skin, that you need
and want help, and that you'd pre-
fer to know just whom you are
driving off in a car with< Any other*
ideas about my talents?"
"Well, I should think - "
"Address first, Miss Wood."
She gave me an address in a resi-
dential district that was the maxi-
mum distance one could get from
City Hall and still enjoy the privi-
lege of paying city taxes. I started
the car and headed in that direc-
tion. Then I said, "Now, Miss
Wood, let's go on with your little
Give the gift you'd like to receive
We admit it — we're pushovers for the Xmas spirit. "Don't
do it," our accountant pleads. "We can't afford to sell subscrip-
tions at those prices!" But our eye goes past his piteous figure
to the distant corners of the land. "Readers straining budgets
to introduce Galaxy to friends and relatives, and have enough
scratch left over for their own subscriptions. We can't leave
the job to them!" we thunder. "Galaxy must bear its share
of the burden! And not only that — by the Lord Harry,
we'll even include handsome Gift Card Announcements with
their names as donors!" Out slouches our accountant, mutter-
ing, "All right, but they'd better get their orders in before
December 15, 1959" — so rush in your order today.
Galaxy Publishing Corp., 421 Hudson St., New York 14, N.Y.
Please enter Special Gift Subscriptions to the following and send gift card announcements.
Offer # ...
that he'd actually disclosed the ex-
istence of a criminal who employed
'Wouldn't that depend upon
whether the policeman or the crimi-
nal was the more talented?" I par-
ried. "But that supposes that the
police force would have a corps of
"Honey-chile," I said, ."at the
first thin hint that the Commis-
sioner was even interested in the
possibility of hiring someone who
knew what the term 'parapsychic
phenomena' really meant, there
would be a universal howl against
'Thought Police' so loud that it
would shatter the polar icecaps."
"But why?" she asked, bewil-
"They'd start screaming about
invasion of privacy,' and cite the
Bill of Rights, and that would be
"You mean that the law has laws
"No, it doesn't say anything
about telepathy," I admitted,
knowing what was to come next.
"Don't sound so superior, Miss
Wood. At the first attempt, the law
would discover that it had a hell
of a lot to say about telepathy and
perception, since they'd definitely
affect the interpretation of the
Fourth and Fifth Amendments."
"I know the Fifth," she said, "but
how about the Fourth?"
"Unreasonable and unwarranted
search," I told her.
"But isn't a man guilty when he's
"I wish it were as simple as that."
"Bur why isn't it?"
"Little Miss Wood, you are now
asking me to solve an ethical ques-
tion that's been unanswered for
more than ten thousand years." I
smiled wistfully. "I am not —
peat not — big enough to answer
the following question: 'Shall a
killer in the confessional, who has
been given absolution by his God,
subsequently be punished by his
"But what has that to do with
"Let's have you answer one:
'Could you truly bare your secret
soul to God if you suspected that
some prying human being was tak-
ing it all down on a tape recorder?' "
"No, I suppose not."
"Then our Thought Police'
would be standing as a human bar-
rier between any man and his
"I suppose so — but couldn't I
"Tell whether someone was lis-
tening to my thoughts?"
That was another stumper. Does
the sign wear out any faster if it's
read? Can the radio transmitter be
measured to tell whether the broad-
cast has any audience? Does the
tree that falls in the forest barren
of animal life generate the same
wave-motion as it would if all the
leaves were replaced by active ear-
drums? There are lots of analogs,
but are any of them valid?
I said, "If I cry out, how can I
know whether I am being heard?"
And in my mind I made my own
reply. I thought in deep concentra-
tion: "How do you read me, Psi-
The response was zero-zero. And
it meant— nothing. My Psi-man
could have been following my
every thought from the moment
that my ringing telephone sum-
moned me to Gordon Andrews'
apartment to the present instant,
so far as I could tell. There was no
feeling of intrusion, no feeling of
T? LORENCE Wood
* "Going to stop the rain again,
The storm was still howling. In
the near suburbs, the rain came in
more gracefully draped sheets and
the wind was not whirlpooled by
the fluelike canyons between the
buildings, but residential rainwater
is just as wet per cubic centimeter
as the metropolitan variety.
"Maybe I should drive up over
the lawn," I suggested.
"Daddy would blow a fuse."
"We might wait for it to let up."
"I'd rather not," she said sober-
ly. "It's one thing to be driven home
in a strange car during a cloudburst,
but it's something else to sit out
here making it look as if I were
paying off by making out."
It came as a pleasant surprise
that she did not consider me a su-
perannuated gaffer, and it was her
youth that allowed her to discuss
parapsychic phemonena without
the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the
older know-it-alls. I considered
Florence Wood and realized that
she was at least old enough so that
I wouldn't be jugged for cradle-rob-
bing so long as I had a parental ac-
ceptance. And I did want someone
to talk out the business of psionics
without having someone wind me
in a sheet and ship me to a shrinker.
And so I said, "If it will smooth
things a bit, I'll umbrella you to
the door- and make official explana-
tion to the stern and anxious par-
"That we'll enjoy," she giggled.
"Daddy always says that he doesn't
have to be a mind reader to ad-
vise against what my boy friends
have in mind. It'll be fun to face
him with a — policeman."
Darkly, I said, "Most folks don't
look upon me as the fun-loving
type. Policemen aren't always wel-
come, you know."
"Oh, Daddy will enjoy it. He
writes a bit. He'll never be another
Ellery Queen, but he will enjoy
talking to a real live captain of
At this point a lot of favorable
things took place at once, such as
the arrival of another convenient
letup in the storm, the mad rush
and the ringing of the doorbell, the
opening of the door and some
gasped introductions as we stood in
a little hallway dripping puddles of
rainwater on a small rug.
"But Florence isn't-?"
I laughed at Mrs. Wood. "Not at
all. This is just the rescue of a very
wet maiden in distress. When we're
not shooting bank robbers, we also
help little old ladies — and lovely
young girls — across streets. All in
the day's work, you know."
Mrs. Wood hauled Florence off,
saying something about hot show-
ers and dry clothing, while Mr.
Wood regarded me with interest
TJTE beat all the way around the
■*--*• bush, trying to ascertain with-
out actually asking pointblank
whether I could spend a few mo-
ments, and, if so, would I like a
One must not anticipate, so I
waited until he'd made his meaning
clear. Then I accepted his offer of
some bourbon, refused his offer of
a cigar and settled myself into the
chair he waved at.
I tasted the highball, smiled in
approval, and opened the conver-
sation by saying, "Your daughter
tells me that you write, Mr. Wood."
He smiled wistfully. "Well, I'm
not at the stage where the mere an-
nouncement that I am working on
a novel causes an immediate pre-
publication sale of seventy thou-
sand copies. You see, I'm still try-
ing to work out a good association
"An association gimmick. The
name Erie Stanley Gardner, for in-
stance, always means a story about
Perry Mason and the inevitable
courtroom scene full of legal fire-
works. Rex Stout has his Nero
Wolf, the fabulous detective who
lets his secretary do all the work."
"And," I added, "John Dickson
Carr writes about Gideon Fell, who
is an expert at solving sealed-room
"Exactly!" he said. "I've a series
of gimmicks all planned, but I real-
ly need a strong, out-of-the-ordi-
nary character to go along with
them. You see, I propose to write
a series of stories about 'perfect
I'm not smart," I said. "I've al-
ways assumed that the so-called
'perfect crime' would be one in
which the criminal walks off scot-
free with the loot under one arm
and the girl on the other."
He said, "From your point of
view, a true 'perfect crime' would
be one in which no clue existed, in-
cluding the fact of the crime itself
— except those clues that were de-
liberately planned by the perpetra-
tor for some purpose of his own.
That is your own angle, isn't it?"
I nodded. Indeed it was, and it
had been expressed in precisely the
same words that I had used in
speaking to Chief Weston.
"However," he went on blandly,
"you'll agree that a clue is usually
the result of a mistake, or failure
to plan completely, or the result of
some accidental circumstance."
"But in a 'perfect crime' there
would be no error, no mistake."
"Yes, but aren't you backing
yourself into a hole that you've
lined with fish hooks yourself?"
"Not at all," he replied. "Clues
must.be cleverly contrived, created,
and established in such a way that
the episode is ultimately known to
be crime and not labeled misadven-
ture, suicide, or the like. Other-
wise," he said with a genial smile,
"we're writing about a 'perfectly
justifiable homicide' instead of a
I nodded again.
"And, of course," he finished,
"these clues must also provide pre-
cisely the correct amount of infor-
mation so that the motive of the
criminal is not only fulfilled, but
exposed — if not to one of the char-
acters in the book, at least to the
R. Wood relaxed and sipped
his own drink. From some-
where aloft, a number of individ-
ually insignificant traces added up
to fairly reliable evidence that
Florence and Mrs. Wood were
about to return. I gathered that the
cross-questioning had allayed any
I said, "One thing you haven't
mentioned," and paused for effect.
"To the Hindu, 'perfection' means
the inclusion of an almost imper-
ceptible flaw so that its maker can-
not be accused of presuming to be
as good as God. Is your 'perfect
crime' to be perfect in the eyes of
the criminal, or in the eyes of the
He said, "Ah, Captain Schnell,
that is indeed one of my bother-
Mrs. Wood came into the room,
followed by Florence. The girl had
lost the soaked-gamin look. She was
transformed by modern alchemy
into a poised young woman who
forced me to revise my estimated
eighteen several years upward. She
nodded affably at her father,
smiled at me and then came over
because she noticed that my high-
ball glass was empty.
I thanked her, and she smiled
wide and bright as she asked, "Has
Daddy been giving you the details
of his impossible bandit?"
"Well, in a way."
Mr. Wood said, "I'm sort of like
the standard television father — in-
capable of adding two and two
without the close supervision of the
female members of my family."
"I — that is, we — keep telling
Daddy he should hire Superman
for a hero."
"You've changed," chyckled Mr.
"Yesterday you advocated that I
hire a detective with telepathy and
a seflse of perception."
"We discussed it on the way
home," said Florence.
"Superman?" I asked.
"No, this extra-sensory business,"
Mr. Wood inquired, "Are you in-
terested in parapsychology, Cap-
' "I've been interested in the sub-
ject for a good many years," I an-
"Would the public accept it, I
wonder," he mused.
Mrs. Wood said, "A lot of peo-
ple read psychic books."
Mr. Wood said plaintively, "I
don't want to write psychic books.
I want to write whodunits. But it
would solve my problem, wouldn't
it? My series would consist of
crimes that would be perfect, ex-
cept for the introduction of a Mas-
ter of Psionics who tells the story
in the first person singular, and who
solves the crime by parapsychic
"It might read better if you made
your extra-sensory character the
criminal," I suggested.
He shook his head. "Wouldn't do
at all. A criminal with extra-sen-
sory talent would always win out
over the police. There have been
only a very few successful stories
written in which the criminal got
"Maybe he wouldn't," I said.
"But how could he possibly fail?"
"He might get sloppy."
"Sloppy! Mind reading every
"One often leads to the other,"
I told him with a smile. "Which is
just my policeman's way of think-
ing. From the policeman's point of
view, you're overlooking one rather
"Indeed? Well, you must tell me
all about it"
U/~\KAY," I said. "My point is
^^ that you should not view
this as a single incident in the life
of an extra-sensory who has turned
his talent to crime, but rather take
the overall view. For instance, we
can write the life history of our
Psi-man in broad terms. As a
schoolboy, he was considered ex-
traordinarily lucky at games of
chance and skilled in games of
manual dexterity; he stood high in
schoolwork and at the same time
managed to do it without working
very hard. By the time he enters
high school, he realizes that his
success is due to some sort of 'sens-
ing' of when things will be right.
This increases the efficiency of his
talent and he surges forward and
would have become top-of-class if
he hadn't discovered that brilliance
in recitation made up for a lack of
"In other words, nothing stands
as a real challenge to him. His
talents surmount the obstacles that
confront his fellow man. He could
collect corporations or be a labor
leader, President or bum. Anything
he wants can be gotten without
much fuss. Our Psi-man is primari-
ly interested in a statistical income
sufficient to support him to the dic-
tates of his ambition. The trick is
to achieve, say, twenty grand per
annum, in such a way that the
manipulation is never discovered.
"At first our Psi-man plans me-
ticulously. But soon this process
seems unnecessary because the
poor ignorant homo saps don't even
know they're being conned. He has
no hard surface against which to
whet his nervous edge, and so he
begins to play games. He leaves
clues, at first to ascertain the true
level of his fellow man's intelli-
gence and ability. Next he leaves
conflicting clues to see which way
the poor dopes will jump. In a
world that scoffs at parapsychic
phenomena, he leaves clues to sup-
port the theory that only an extra-
sensory criminal could have done
the dastardly deed. Will one of the
ignorant apes recognize the truth?
If he does, will he be in a high posi-
tion, or will he be one of the dili-
gent ones who fetch coffee for the
guy in the upper office? If the work
of a Psi-man is recognized, how
will our bright policeman go about
it, and what will he do with the
evidence after it's been shown to
"And so, Mr. Wood, our Psi-man
criminal has become bored because
there is no one in the world to chal-
lenge him, and he gets sloppy
through his growing contempt for
the antlike activities of his fellow
creatures. At last he shows himself,
deliberately taunting them to take
action against him. And that," I
concluded, with a nod at him,
"might be the 'perfect crime' in
which your extra-sensory criminal
finally exposes himself."
"But why," Mrs. Wood asked in
perplexity, "would such a talented
person turn to crime— or do you
think that all extra-sensory peo-
I turned to smile at her. "Mrs.
Wood, I was not speaking of extra-
sensory people as a statistical body.
I was referring to one particular
"I find him hard to believe in."
"On the contrary, my dear," said
Mr. Wood, "Captain Schnell has
drawn an amazingly accurate
thumbnail sketch of our Psi-man,
and I daresay that he could go on
and on, filling in more minute de-
"Oh. yes, indeed," I said. "But I
must leave it up to the professional
writer to tell what the brilliant po-
liceman does when he recognizes
the work as that of an extra-sen-
sory. For instance, does he become
bold enough to mention it to Chief
Weston, or to Commissioner
Stone? Or will he confine his
discussion to the company of a
rain-soaked young woman so cir-
cumstantially available and coinci-
dentally willing to discuss Psionics?"
"Captain Schnell," breathed
Florence Wood, "what on Earth are
you talking about?"
"Your father," I said.
Mr. Wood stepped into the
breach. "Captain Schnell was
dramatizing for your benefit, I'm
sure. Because Captain Schnell
knows very well how impossible it
is to surprise a telepath into reveal-
Florence Wood's expression
changed to a mildly bothered smile.
"It certainly sounded as if he were
accusing you of something."
"You mean — like — mind read-
ing?" he asked with a big belly
laugh that closed the subject.
Y most of the rules of society,
both Mr. Wood and I were
guilty of gross gentility. He greeted
me overtly as the welcome guest
and needled me with a show of
patronizing tolerance as he implied
that my basic interest was in Flor-
To match him, I accepted his
hospitality and made use of the
proximity to spy on him and his
There are ways and means of
making a pretended deaf-mute re-
veal himself — the human being
does not live who will not leap half-
way out of his skin at the shock of
an unexpected revolver shot, no
matter how well trained he is at
As for surprising a telepath, I
knew it wouldn't work, but I had
to try it anyway. I put both Mrs.
Wood and Florence through a
number of mental hurdles. To this,
Mr. Wood took a quietly tolerant
attitude. He understood and was
prepared to accept as healthily nor-
mal a certain amount of lust and
carnal conjecture in the minds of
males who were interested in his
daughter. He forgave me for men-
tally insulting his wife because he
knew that my mental peregrina-
tions were only aimed at determin-
ing whether his wife was telepathic.
Finally he came out flatly and told
me to stop wasting my effort, be-
cause neither Florence nor Mrs.
Wood had a trace of extra-sensory
power. Their lack of shocked or
outraged response was not a case of
the well-trained telepath divining
my intention and planning a blank
Furthermore, Mr. Wood as-
serted that neither of them knew of
his extra-sensory faculty, that he
fully intended to keep it that way,
and that I should know damned
well that such stunts wouldn't work
in the first place.
And so I continued to enjoy a
dinner now and then, and occasion-
ally the company of Florence.
Ultimately the lack of progress
brought Chief Weston's nervous
system to the blowup point. He
called me in and I went, knowing
that trouble cannot always be
avoided, and when it can't, it's just
plain sense to kick out the props
and have done with it.
He plowed right in: "And what
in hell have you been doing?"
"Chief, I've been-"
"You put a make-team on some
half-baked writer named Wood."
"Because," he yelled, "the first
person you saw when you stuck
your nose outside of Gordon An-
drews' apartment was Florence
"Well, Chief, you see-"
"You perhaps suspected that
she'd just walked through the wall
of that apartment? And naturally
you pulled out your hip-pocket
crime laboratory and checked that
umbrella tip for bloodstains before
you threw it aside."
"Well, you see—"
"Schnell, would you have been
so damned gallant if she'd been an
ugly old hag in a ratty dress carry-
ing a dead halibut wrapped in an
"But you see—"
"So you leap into gallant action,
and after you've rescued the fair
maiden from her watery grave, you
suddenly find it desirable to use a
department automobile to deliver
the damsel home."
"Schnell, I'll bet that Wood girl
wasn't any wetter than you were.
And that's how you put the long
arm of coincidence to work?"
T was more than coincidence.
Florence Wood had been in
that soaking rain and whipping
wind for more than an hour. Any
housewife would have corroborated
my statement that only a pro-
longed soaking can achieve a truly
Oh, Daddy Wood was just the guy
to think of a stunt like saturating
the seams and fibers of his daugh-
ter's clothing by agitating the water
supersonically at high amplitude,
but, let's face it, that would have
beaten hell out of her soft white
As for the umbrella, the wound
could indeed have been made by
a rapierlike thrust. But a compari-
son between the depth of the
wound and the length of the tip
showed that the bottom of the
wound could not have been
reached without forcing part of the
umbrella itself into the victim's
body. The face of the wound
showed no such outsize penetra-
tion, hence the umbrella was not
the sought-for weapon.
At this point, Chief Weston's
telephone interrupted him and he
snatched it up, bellowed his name,
and then listened. Finally he
snarled that it was for me and fair-
ly hurled the handset at me.
I caught it at the end of its cord
and said: "Captain Schnell, Spe-
"Oh, I know it is you, Captain
Schnell," said the suave voice of
Edward Hazlett Wood. "I just
wanted to tell you that your analy-
sis of the umbrella's uselessness as
evidence was quite brilliant. Also
your logic in the matter of my
daughter's rain-soaked clothing was
clever. I really don't regret the
chewing out you are getting. You
deserve it. I was hoping to find you
bright enough to avoid it. Anyway,
can we expect you for dinner this
"Yes," I snapped, and hung up,
thinking a few things that would
have called for a terse reprimand
about foul and abusive language if
telepathy were administered by
the Federal Communications Com-
"Wood?" snapped Chief Weston.
"Date?" he snarled.
I groaned. Wood did have the
nasty telepath's ability to man-
euver me into a situation that I
could not conveniently avoid.
"When they start calling the of-
fice to pester you for dates — "
"I know what I'm doing!"
"So do I!" he yelled. "You're do-
"Listen, Chief, I'll admit the
long arm of coincidence, but you'll
have to admit that when there's
trouble, I'm usually the first one to
"So how do you connect them
"Chief, I walk out of that apart-
ment with your own words ringing
in my ears. 'Looks like the classical
setup for a "perfect crime,"' you
said. And then I meet this girl who
just happens to have a father who
writes whodunits and is planning
a series of books based upon the
'perfect crime.' "
"Maybe," sneered Chief Wes-
ton, "the guy is a mind reader."
I've given even that some con-
"So I hear tell."
"Any objections?" I asked.
44 OBJECTIONS? I've got a lot
^-^ of objections!" he howled.
"This is a police department, not
a soothsayers' convention! We're
subject to enough criticism as it is.
You needn't have added the act
that makes us look like a bunch of
"But, Chief, I-"
"So what do I hear tell?" He
hauled the tray drawer of his desk
open and pulled out one of the
tabloids, opened to one of its hate-
everything columnists. "Listen!
'In recent years the legality of the
famous witchcraft trials of the past
has been subject to debate, with
the result that these past convic-
tions have now been declared "mis-
carriages of justice." Posthumously,
I must unhappily add. However,
there has been little or no amend-
ment to the laws against witch-
craft, wizardry, charms, amulets
But brace yourselves, citizens.
One of our younger and more bril-
liant captains of detectives has
shown an interest recently in para-
psychics and may be training to
track down criminals by the appli-
cation of extra-sensory detection.
If this be true, the laws will have
to be ruptured to permit him to
secure evidence, since it is a tenet
of the law that evidence must be
secured through legal methods and
" 'Fortune Tellers of the World,
Arise! You have nothing to lose
but your crystal balls!' "
Chief Weston slapped the paper
down. "What do you think of that?"
I said, "He's just making noise.
Telepathy has nothing in common
"I wish I could stop you from
even thinking about telepathy!"
"If you could," I said calmly,
"you'd have to be telepathic to
determine when I had violated
your dictum — and if you were tele-
pathic, Chief, you'd have been on
my side from the beginning."
He merely glared at me. At this
moment I should have been expect-
ing the worst, and prepared to meet
it But please remember that
there's always that mental block
against prying, especially when the
United States mail is concerned.
But now Edward Hazlett Wood
was about to show me how a real
extra-sensory sharpshooter clob-
bers his enemies.
WESTON'S secretary entered,
carrying a package.
I saw it, knew at once what it
was, and groaned with despair. The
only chance I saw of getting out of
this was the forlorn hope that Wes-
ton would believe the package was
a dig, probably mailed by the snip-
It was cleverly contrived. The
addressee's name had been blurred
and half-obliterated so that it
couldn't have been quietly dropped
on my desk where I could have dis-
posed of its damning contents
quietly. It had, of course, come spe-
cial delivery, urgent, immediate
handling. If I were a believer in
amulets, witches and spells, I'd
have been of the opinion that an
aura of urgency had been created
about the box.
Chief Weston's secretary handed
it to him with a mumbled sugges-
tion that it seemed to be important,
and perhaps it should be opened in
hopes that the contents would con-
vey information as to the identity
of the owner.
I said nothing.
¥NSIDE the package was a fine
-*- crystal ball, a set of tarot cards
with a thick book of explanations,
and a second deck of cards the like
of which most people have heard
but few have actually seen. These
were the square, circle, wiggly line
cards used in parapsychic research.
There was the damning evidence
of a packing slip with my name
clearly printed on it, and a rubber
stamp notation that the merchan-
dise order had been accompanied
by a prepaid postal note.
The timing was perfect. The
problem of keeping that package
on schedule all the way from its
point of origin to its devastating
delivery must have taxed Wood's
faculties, but he'd done it.
Chief Weston's choler rose vis-
ibly, and in a voice loud enough to
be heard in Asbury Park, he yelled :
"Schnell, did you - buy - this?"
I was trapped. No matter what
I said, it was calculated to get me
into trouble. For in the petty cash
box in the secretary's desk was a
petty cash slip made out in the
amount of thirty-nine dollars and
seventeen cents for a postal money
order payable to the Aladdin Nov-
elty Company of Bayonne, New
Jersey. The signature was good
enough for me to accept it myself.
All along the line it had been nice-
ly legal — or would have been if
I'd really signed that petty cash
If it came to an argument, I'd
have to perform miracles to prove
"Schnell," said Weston in a cold,
level voice, "you'll get me a lead
on the Gordon Andrews murder by
tomorrow night or hand me your
I fumed in silence because there
was nothing to say.
As I closed the door behind me,
I heard the crash of the crystal ball
hitting the wall. Luckily he hadn't
hurled it at the glass panel in his
My own phone was ringing as I
approached my desk. I picked it
up wearily and said, "Very clever,
Mr. Wood. Very damned clever."
He said, "Your basic difficulty,
Captain Schnell, is that you have
sworn to uphold the law and are
compelled to employ legal meth-
ods. You must always work within
the framework of the law. You
would not think of tampering with
the United States mails, even to
save yourself from an unjust
"Wood, if I make a single move
outside of the law, you'll use it
against me, won't you?"
I'm afraid that's the way it has
to be. You play according to your
rules and I'll play according to
"Well, now, Mr. Wood, in our
philosophy there may be strength.
Remember, upon the day that the
forces of law and order must vio-
late their own concepts in order to
effect their own ends, on that day
law and order ceases to be the goal
of honest men."
"Spoken like an idealist!*'
Hanging up a telephone is not
polite, but in this case hanging up
did not snap the link of communi-
AN angry man is a poor fighter.
I sat shuffling papers on my
desk, half of my intellect raging
helplessly. Finally I forced myself
to sit and read the papers on the
desk, even though I knew every
word on every one of them.
One reported that Wood had
been on« of the less conspicuous
partners in a very successful per-
sonnel-placement agency. I could
have added a penciled note that a
telepath should make a very suc-
cessful personnel manager.
Another said that Florence
Wood was employed as a safety
deposit vault clerk in the Third
National Bank. This didn't bother
me. What the standard human gets
cut of staring at a solid phalanx of
safety deposit boxes is a headache,
not perceptive-gained information.
There was a medical report that
Wood had undergone a mild coro-
nary occlusion some months ago
which had hastened his retirement
I wondered whether his retirement
had been hastened by a real coro-
nary occlusion or whether he'd used
his extra-sensory power to fake the
symptoms and control the doctor's
Among the papers was a com-
plete dissertation on the stab-
wound in Gordon Andrews' chest.
There was no trace of any foreign
body; the wound did not go all the
way through the chest cavity. It
was not clean cut, as if made by a
sharpened weapon, but more like
the semi-rounded end of an um-
brella or a blunt, heavy spike. In
the opinion of the medical exam-
iner, the wound had been made
with a rapid thrust, but it looked as
if there had been no withdrawal.
An inspection of the wound for
traces of excess water (icicles) or
carbon dioxide (dry ice) had failed
to disclose any plausible weapon or
projectile that could have evapor-
ated or sublimed out of existence.
I longed to suggest that a test
be made for air. If a kinematic can
create pyrotic effects by agitation
of the molecules in something to
be ignited, a good kinematic could
make Maxwell's Demon go to work
for him. Like compressing a vol-
ume of air into a .38 slug and pro-
jecting it at revolver velocity.
And in the end I was not leafing
the reports or reading them. I was
really staring at the wall. Specific-
ally, I was staring at the calendar
without paying much attention to
it, and as I came out of my reverie
I realized that I'd been absorbed in
a little red smudge on one of the
Association is a funny process.
The combination of calendar and
red blob stared at hazily had final-
ly brought my mind around to
thinking of February the four-
teenth, which honors a patron saint
who has absolutely nothing to do
with Jimmy Valentine, who was
reputed to have been a very fast
man with the combination of a safe,
especially the type of safe that Gor-
don Andrews kept his money in
because he did not trust banks,
which may have been a good idea
considering that Florence Wood
worked in a bank vault, and her
I jumped out of my office chair
just as it tilted over backward. If
I hadn't jumped, I'd have split my
skull on the radiator under the win-
dow behind me.
A heavy brass-edged ruler came
up from the desk and swung in a
whistling saber swipe at my face.
I ducked in time to let the cut
pass over my head; it clipped a few
upstanding hairs. When it reached
the end of its stroke, I wrested it
out of Wood's control just to prove
that an alert local force could exert
more power than a distant kine-
matic force. Naturally I could. Lev-
erage, of course.
"VTEXT came a metal-to-metal
•*■ ^ clicking sound; it was the po-
lice positive in the upper left-hand
corner of my desk. I thought
strongly, "Psi-man, you lift that gun
and fire it at me through the desk
drawer, and the angle and every-
thing will be enough evidence to
change Weston's opinion from
angry rejection of all Psionics to
a cold, calculated, vengeful agree-
ment with everything I've sug-
The clicking stopped coming
from the desk drawer and resumed
in smaller kind from the little desk
lock in the tray drawer of the desk.
These desk locks can be picked
with a bent hairpin, but picking
takes time. Everything takes time.
At any rate, it did indeed take
Edward Hazlett Wood a finite time
to juggle the little brass tumblers,
turn the main cylinder, retract the
sliding bolt, withdraw the desk
tray to unlatch the side drawers,
pull open the upper left-hand
drawer and extract my police posi-
tive from its holster with its me-
chanism entering the firing cycle —
which itself takes rime.
By which time I'd vacated my
office and was starting across the
outer office floor in the brisk, stiff-
legged walk of a man in a hurry to
go a long way fast.
Wood was stalled. I thought:
"Make like a poltergeist, Psi-man
—and convince everybody that you
The outer office was a bustle of limits before the so-called brute-
force mechanism will deign to turn
a gear. But again, and luckily, mak-
ing adjustments and maladjust-
ments takes time. And by the logi-
cal rules of classical mechanics, the
simple maladjusting turn of a
screw valve takes no longer to re-
turn to adjustment provided the
restorer is as bright and as quick
as the wrecker.
We worked our way through it
like a pair of fencers or ju jitsu pro-
fessionals going through the for-
mal ritual of opening their engage-
He fastened on the starting sys-
tem, but I licked him cold on that
one because the ignition key con-
trols the starter relay switch and I
could handle both with one hand.
He tried to block the starting
relay, but the armature had started
before he arrived with his kine-
matic barrier and the solid me-
chanico-electrical power carried
the armature home.
He made a futile attempt to
flummox up the laws of Mr. Ohm,
but he did not have the power to
prevent amperes from flowing from
the battery into the starting motor.
By the time he thought of gum-
ming up the bendix, the gear had
meshed against the flywheel and
the engine was turning over.
He tried to flood the engine, but
I held the choke valve just as I
wanted it. He fiddled with the
justed within ridiculously narrow breaker-points and I blocked that
the usual police activity. But Wood
did not have the ability to invade
another mind and take over. At
least, no one of the men in the of-
fice suddenly had a fit of homicidal
mania with Captain Schnell listed
as the first victim.
And so I made Weston's office
and shoved my head in through the
outer door and yelled: "Weston —
Third National Bank — and make
I turned and headed outside as
Weston started the usual top-brass
routine of wanting to know all of
the infinitely variable reasons why
he should leave his office at all, let
alone right now. With no one to
fire delaying questions at, and with
a growing realization that he was
not going to learn a thing by sitting
there in fulmination, he followed.
I paid no more attention to him
once I knew he was on his way.
I had my own hands full.
r* ONSIDERING the general re-
^^ liability of the average inter-
nal combustion engine in the face
of neglect, abuse and the natural
ravages of weather, the automobile
engine is a brute-force mechanism
completely unable to support a
psychosis. I was, however, appalled
to discover just how many little
thumb-valves, levers, wires, doo-
dads, cams, gizmos and kadodies
there are, each of which must be ad-
until one of the cylinders fired.
That kicked the whole engine into
life and made the engine far too
rapid to control, moving member
by moving member. This caused
his attention to turn to the needle
valves, but as fast as he turned
them out, I turned them back in
again. He hit the choke again and
I parried his thrust.
The engine kicked over, caught,
spluttered and backfired, and then
went into an erratic running that
smoothed out slightly as it warmed.
I wasted no time; I kicked her into
gear and took off in a jack-rabbit
start with my siren wailing.
Exultantly, I thought : "Can you
hit a moving target, Psi-man?"
Yes, you can stop an internal
combustion engine turning at three
thousand revolutions per minute
by yanking off the ignition system.
But not when your opponent is do-
ing everything in his power to pre-
vent you, and not when both of
you are traveling at sixty or more
miles per hour and you have a
rougher driving course than he.
\M Y own siren was clearing my
-*-*-*• way, driving motorists to the
shelter of the side streets and park-
ing places, and causing my fellow
policemen to take charge blocks
ahead to clear the path for the ve-
hicle that had the right to exceed
the city speed limit. My worthy
opponent drove at sixty miles per
hour at his own risk, trying to race run until he was clear enough to
me to the Third National Bank.
Wood's extra-sensory driving
was no better than mine. The traf-
fic pattern was clear to both of us.
But who should know better than
a policeman what the average mo-
torist will do in the face of an
He took the time now and then
to hurl something at me, but this
was not very effective. If you think
not, figure how many things you
can see and use as weapons while
driving at sixty.
And, too, he was also fighting the
unfavorable end of a missile-prob-
lem called "terminal control,"
which simply states that any
guided missile approaching its tar-
get is subject to greater and greater
interference by the enemy as it gets
closer. Wood's near-misses I
ignored with a disdain calculated
to make him furious, and his near-
hits I blocked with an ease that
proved my ability to outguess and
I chuckled to myself, for Edward
Hazlett Wood had been played off-
balance. He'd committed the hys-
terical mistake of fighting me on
my ground instead of his. He had
thrust and I'd parried and ad-
vanced, forcing him to thrust again
before he could recover. He'd been
fighting in the very odd position of
conducting a vigorous offensive
while back-stepping in inexorable
retreat. He should have run and
prepare a single telling blow.
And so ultimately I came to the
front of the Third National Bank
in a screeching halt. I stepped un-
der a falling cornice, neatly avoided
a revolving door that tried to slice
me, and side-stepped the bronze
bust of Salmon P. Chase that top-
pled from its niche of honor above
the door. I evaded the erratic roll-
ing of a pencil, and I trod with un-
erring step on a circular patch of
invisible stuff that was as slippery
as the proverbial frictionless lubri-
cant. The slick flowed forward and
down over the stairs as I hurried
below; I held myself erect above
it by sheer will power.
As I strode toward the safe-de-
posit vault, I thought exultantly:
"You're outpointed, Psi-man!"
T? LORENCE Wood looked up
•*- from her little desk and cried,
"Why, Captain Schnell! How nice
to see you!"
"Hello," I said with a smile. "I
hope you won't mind my company
for a while."
'Tin not likely to go for a stroll
in-Captain Schnell! Don't-"
Seven and one-half tons of fine-
ly wrought and polished tool-steel
alloy swung on delicately balanced
hinges, coming to rest with the
metal-to-metal sound of machined
surfaces sliding into a perfect fit
with its precision-matched recep-
tacle. Its piston-fit made a pressure
on our eardrums. Then the auto-
matic switches took over and
motors whirred in solid muffled
harmony as the massive bars slid
out of their nests into the polished
The ponderous operation that
sealed the two of us off from the
outside world behind a barrier of
drill-proof and burglar-proof and
blast-proof solidity conclude^f^not
with the mechanical fanfare it de-
served, but with a gentle little
click that was as final as the Word
of God. .
"—do that!" gasped Florence
Wood, weakly finishing her ad-
She stared at me.
The knowledge that this bank
vault door was equipped with a
time-lock that would not permit it
to be opened except in the interval
between nine-fifteen and nine-thir-
ty in the morning of any working
weekday ceased to be mere infor-
mation and became vitally impor-
tant to Florence Wood.
So did the secondary knowledge
that the bank vault was also con-
trived in available volume to limit
the breathable air. There was not
enough to support' the average hu-
man adult overnight until opening
time tomorrow morning. Now there
were two of them entombed in it
— and she was one of them!
"We'll die!" she screamed.
"Trust me, Florence?"
She looked dubious. She was not
at all willing to regard anyone as
competent who was so foolish as
to lock himself into a bank vault —
and her with him.
Florence was still struggling
through her sea of mixed thoughts
when the telephone rang. It was
Chief Weston and he bellowed al-
most loud enough to hear through
the yards of concrete and steel that
"Schnell — what in the bloody
hell have you done?"
"IVe shut the vault," I said.
"I doubt it."
"How do you propose to get
out?" he demanded with heavy
"Just ask Edward Hazlett Wood
— the Psi-man in our midst"
"Schnell, if you get out of there
alive, I'm going to ask for your re-
"If I get out of here alive, you'll
need every faculty I have to keep
our Psi-man jugged for good."
"You and your extra-sensory—"
"Chief, get it through your thick
skull that I am so convinced I'm
right that I am betting my life on
"And can you tell me why he is
going to give himself away to
"Because I have his daughter
right here beside me."
"Stop yacking, Chief. Call me
when Wood arrives. I have an emo-
tional problem on my hands down
"How do you know Wood's com-
"He's been following my every
move by telepathy," I said. "And
he's been trying to block me all the
way. Oh, he knows all right."
HP HEN I hung up to stop a lot
•■• of senseless gab. I turned to
Florence, who was just beginning
to understand what I had said and
what it meant to both her and her
father. She stood there with
shocked eyes regarding me, and
with one hand pressed back against
her teeth. She said, "I don't believe
it," in a barely audible voice.
"It's true, and I'm sorry it's true,"
I told her.
"It can't be true."
"That's what you'd like to be-
lieve," I said softly. "But the fact
remains that your father is a killer."
"I'd rather die."
"Florence, the choice between
death and dishonor is not yours to
make. Whether you live or die is
up to your father, who is guilty of
placing you in this awkward posi-
tion by turning his talents to evil."
She stared at me. "But — how
could you — ?"
"There was no other way but to
bait this trap emotionally."
"So cold and cruel—"
I nodded. "So were the pioneers
who saved one last bullet for their
How could I tell this hurt girl
that I had looked time and again
into the minds of killers and found
them far worse than the deeds they
committed? When the official rec-
ord states that upon such and such
a date, so and so was punished for
his crime, how is he punished for
the harm he did to those who
placed their trust in him? I hate
them because they force me to re-
veal them for what they are, mak-
ing me an agent of their betrayal.
The phone rang again. "Yeah,
"Schnell, Wood's just arrived.
What shall I tell him?"
"Don't bother. He knows it all."
"Schnell, granting that you are
right, why should he show his hand
when he knows — or could easily
find out — that the time-lock set-
ting mechanism is on your side of
that vault door?"
"Sure it is," I replied. "But it's
covered by a sheet of five-ply safe-
"Use your revolver!"
• "Chief, reprimand me for a vio-
lation of regulations if you must,
but let me point out that only an
idiot would wear a gun when he's
pitting himself against a Psi-man."
"Got everything figured out,
haven't you, Schnell?"
"Chief," I said, "this affair started
in a sealed room, and now ir*s go-
ing to end in one."
I yanked on the telephone and
pulled it out of its connection block,
snapping that link of communica-
tion. Then, to satisfy Edward Haz-
lett Wood, I hurled the instrument
as hard as I could against the safe-
ty glass. The telephone bounced as
if I had thrown it against six solid
feet of battleship plate armor.
T THOUGHT: "Psi-man, you
■■• are trapped!"
He thought: "I've killed before,
Schnell. Why shouldn't I profess
helplessness and innocence, and
accuse you and the whole Police
Department of the stupid and wan-
ton death of my beloved daugh-
"Because you've erred, Psi-man
"Ah, now I have proof! You're a
"Who - me?" I thought without
a visible change in my expression
for Florence Wood to see. "You're
the one who erred, Wood. You
neglected the rules."
"Bah - the law! Stupid law-
"Not so stupid, Wood. The law
is really very sensible. Ifs strong,
Wood, and it fosters the strength
that comes of following it. So you
see, Psi-man Wood, by never, never
making any overt use of my talent,
by never admitting that I know
more than any clever man can see
and deduce from what he knows —
it has now become quite obvious to
Chief Weston that if any such she-
nanigans as extra-sensory manipu-
lation of this bank-vault door take
place — you're the only one sus-
pected of parapsychic power!"
And then the time-lock setting
dials clicked around, their tiny
noise muted by the glass door.
They came around until they
pointed to the present time. Then
came the louder manipulation of
outside dial lock, the heavy click of
massive tumblers, and then the
solid turning sound of wheel and
mighty lever. The vault door
Outside, a pale and speechless
man faced me, looking at his daugh-
ter. Weston was shaking his head,
but the confusion was clearing.
Weston was a good man, quite will-
ing to operate without a full ex-
planation, so long as there was a
reasonable probability that some
reasonable explanation would come
later. The president and four vice-
presidents of the bank stared at
their vault door in dismay, wonder-
ing how anyone could from now on
rely on any protection if the best of
the vault-maker's art could be
opened" with such ease.
And Florence. She started for-
ward with a glad cry, but stopped
in mid-stride as she realized the
full truth. In those fractions of a
second, she became the full, mature
adult who had been hurt, and who
knew that hurt and pain are not
She stopped a full yard from him
and whispered, "Daddy — you did
He looked at her out of frantic
eyes. "I didn't! I didn't!"
Chief Weston took a pair of
handcuffs from one of the uni-
formed cops and held them up in
front of Edward Hazlett Wood's
eyes. "Coming quietly, Wood, or
must I weld them on you?"
C TUNNED, knowing that any
^ move he made I would block,
the murderer turned to go.
I was going to have quite an in-
teresting intellectual problem to
solve. I was going to have to testi-
fy that I was clever enough to trap
an extra-sensory criminal without
displaying my own extra-sensory
talent. It wasn't just a matter of
putting a possible ending to my of-
ficial usefulness to the forces of
law and order if the facts became
known. One word of suspicion
against Captain Howard Schnell
and some clever defense attorney
would raise a wholly reasonable
doubt as to which Psi-man opened
that vault door.
And being sworn to uphold the
law, and enforce the law within the
framework of the law itself, I'd
have to tell the truth, the whole
truth and nothing but the truth, so
help me God!
But, according to the same sen-
sible law, not unless I was specifi-
And to answer Edward Hazlett
Wood's question: The perfect an-
swer to the perfect crime com-
mitted by the perfect criminal is
a perfect retribution.
— GEORGE O. SMITH
FOR 2500 YEARS
Man has sought the state of "CLEAR"
This state is now attainable for the first time in Man's History.
The goal of all Mystic and Occult Science has been attained.
It can be done for you.
Write H A S I
1812 19th Street, N.W.
Washington 9, D.C
By PHILIP K. DICK
Illustrated by WOOD
Let the aliens get away with one
thing — and they'd get away with
everything — including the Earth!
N his office at the Terran Im-
port Bureau of Standards, the
tall man gathered uo the
I tall man gathered up
morning's memos from their wire
basket, and, seating himself at his
desk, arranged them for reading.
He put on his iris lenses, lit a ciga-
"Good morning," the first memo
said in its tinny, chattery voice, as
Wiseman ran his thumb along the
line of pasted tape. Staring off
through the open window at the
parking lot, he listened to it idly.
"Say look, whafs wrong with you
people down there? We sent that
lot of— " a pause as the speaker, the
sales manager of a chain of New
York department stores, found his
records — "those Ganymedean toys.
You realize we have to get them
approved in time for the autumn
buying plan, so we can get them
stocked for Christmas." Grumbling,
the sales manager concluded, "War
games are going to be an important
item again this year. We intend to
Wiseman ran his thumb down
to the speaker's name and title.
"Joe Hauck," the memo-voice
chattered. "Appeley's Children's."
To himself, Wiseman said, "Ah."
He put down the memo, got a blank
and prepared to reply. And then he
said, half-aloud, "Yes, what about
that lot of Ganymedean toys?"
It seemed like a long time that
the testing labs had been on them.
At least two weeks.
Of course, any Ganymedean
products got special attention these
days; the Moons had, during the
last year, gotten beyond their usual
state of economic greed and had
begun — according to intelligence
circles — mulling overt military ac-
tion against competitive interests,
of which the Inner Three planets
could be called the foremost ele-
ment. But so far nothing had shown
up. Exports remained of adequate
quality, with no special jokers, no
toxic paint to be licked off, no cap-
sules of bacteria.
And yet . . .
Any group of people as inventive
as the Ganymedeans could be ex-
pected to show creativity in what-
ever field they entered. Subversion
would be tackled like any other
venture — with imagination and a
flair for wit.
Wiseman got to his feet and left
his office, in the direction of the
separate building in which the test-
ing labs operated.
QURROUNDED by half-disas-
^ sembled consumers' products,
Pinario looked up to see his boss,
Leon Wiseman, shutting the final
door of the lab.
"I'm glad you came down," Pin-
ario said, although actually he was
stalling; he knew that he was at
least five days behind in his work,
and this session was going to mean
trouble. "Better put on a prophy-
laxis suit— don't want to take risks."
He spoke pleasantly, but Wise-
man's expression remained dour.
"I'm here about those inner-cita-
del-storming shock troops at six
dollars a set," Wiseman said, stroll-
ing among the stacks of many-sized
unopened products waiting to be
tested and released.
"Oh, that set of Ganymedean toy
soldiers," Pinario said with relief.
His conscience was clear on that
item; every tester in the labs knew
the special instructions handed
down by the Cheyenne Govern-
ment on the Dangers of Contami-
nation from Culture Particles Hos-
tile to Innocent Urban Populations,
a typically muddy ukase from offi-
cialdom. He could always — legiti-
mately — fall back and cite the
number of that directive. "I've got
them off by themselves," he said,
walking over to accompany Wise-
man, "due to the special danger in-
"Let's have a look," Wiseman
said. "Do you believe there's any-
thing in this caution, or is it more
paranoia about 'alien milieux'?"
Pinario said, "It's justified, es-
pecially where children's artifacts
A few hand-signals, and a slab
of wall exposed a side room.
Propped up in the center was a
sight that caused Wiseman to halt.
A plastic life-size dummy of a child,
perhaps five years in appearance,
wearing ordinary clothes, sat sur-
rounded by toys. At this moment,
the dummy was saying, "I'm tired
of that. Do something else." It
paused a short time, and then re-
peated, "I'm tired of that. Do some-
The toys on the floor, triggered
to respond to oral instructions, gave
up their various occupations and
"It saves on labor costs," Pinario
explained. "This is a crop of junk
that's got an entire repertoire to
go through, before the buyer has
his money's worth. If we stuck
around to keep them active, we'd
be in here all the time."
Directly before the dummy was
the group of Ganymedean soldiers,
plus the citadel which they had
been built to storm. They had been
sneaking up on it in an elaborate
pattern, but, at the dummy's ut-
terance, they had halted. Now they
"You're getting this all on tape?"
, "Oh, yes," Pinario said.
The model soldiers stood ap-
proximately six inches high, made
from the almost indestructible
thermoplastic compounds that the
Ganymedean manufacturers were
famous for. Their uniforms were
synthetic, a hodgepodge of various
military costumes from the Moons
and nearby planets. The citadel
itself, a block of ominous dark
metallike stuff, resembled a legend-
ary fort; peep-holes dotted its up-
per surfaces, a drawbridge had been
drawn up out of sight, and from the
top turret a gaudy flag waved.
With a whistling pop, the citadel
fired a projectile at its attackers.
The projectile exploded in a cloud
of harmless smoke and noise,
among a cluster of soldiers.
"It fights back," Wiseman ob-
"But ultimately it loses," Pinario
said. "It has to. Psychologically
speaking, it symbolizes the external
reality. The dozen soldiers, of
course, represent to the child his
own efforts to cope. By participat-
ing in the storming of the citadel,
the child undergoes a sense of ade-
quacy in dealing with the harsh
world. Eventually he prevails, but
only after a painstaking period of
effort and patience." He added,
"Anyhow, that's what the instruc-
tion booklet says." He handed
Wiseman the booklet.
GLANCING over the booklet,
Wiseman asked, "And their
pattern of assault varies each
"We've had it running for eight
days now. The same pattern hasn't
cropped up twice. Well, you've got
quite a few units involved."
The soldiers were sneaking
around, gradually nearing the cita-
del. On the walls, a number of mon-
itoring devices appeared and began
tracking the soldiers. Utilizing
other toys being tested, the soldiers
"They can incorporate acciden-
tal configurations of terrain," Pi-
nario explained. "They're object-
tropic; when they see, for example,
a dollhouse here for testing, they
climb into it like mice. They'll be
all through it" To prove his point,
he picked up a large toy spaceship
manufactured by a Uranian com-
pany; shaking it, he spilled two sol-
diers from it.
"How many times do they take
the citadel," Wiseman asked, "on
a percentage basis?"
"So far, they've been successful
one out of nine tries. There's an ad-
justment in the back of the citadel.
You can set it for a higher yield of
He threaded a path through the
advancing soldiers; Wiseman ac-
companied him, and they bent
down to inspect the citadel.
"This is actually the power sup-
ply," Pinario said. "Cunning. Also,
the instructions to the soldiers ema-
nate from it. High-frequency trans-
mission, from a shot-box."
Opening the back of the citadel,
he showed his boss the container
of shot. Each shot was an instruc-
tion iota. For an assault pattern,
the shot were tossed up, vibrated,
allowed to settle in a new se-
quence. Randomness was thereby
achieved. But since there was a
finite number of shot, there had to
be a finite number of patterns.
"We're trying them all," Pinario
"And there's no way to speed it
"It'll just have to take time. It
may run through a thousand pat-
terns and then—"
"The next one," Wiseman fin-
ished, "may have them make a
ninety-degree turn and start firing
at the nearest human being."
Pinario said somberly, "Or
worse. There're a good deal of ergs
in that power pack. If s made to
put out for five years. But if it all
went into something simultaneous-
"Keep testing," Wiseman said.
They looked at each other and
then at the citadel. The soldiers
had by now almost reached it. Sud-
denly one wall of the citadel
flapped down; a gun-muzzle ap-
peared, and the soldiers had been
"I never saw that before," Pi-
For a moment, nothing stirred.
And then the lab's child-dummy,
seated among its toys, said, "I'm
tired of that. Do something else."
With a tremor of uneasiness, the
two men watched the soldiers pick
themselves up and regroup.
HTWO days later, Wiseman's su-
•*■ perior, a heavy-set, short, an-
gry man with popping eyes, ap-
peared in his office. "Listen," Fow-
ler said, "you get those damn toys
out of testing. I'll give you until to-
morrow." He started back out, but
Wiseman stopped him.
"This is too serious," he said.
"Come down to the lab and I'll
Arguing all the way, Fowler ac-
companied him to the lab. "You
have no concept of the capital
some of these firms have invested
in this stuff!" he was saying as they
entered. "For every product you've
got represented here, there's a ship
or a warehouse full on Luna, wait-
ing for official clearance so it can
Pinario was nowhere in sight. So
Wiseman used his key, bypassing
the hand-signals that opened up
the testing room.
There, surrounded by toys, sat
the dummy that the lab men had
built. Around it the numerous toys
went through their cycles. The
racket made Fowler wince.
"This is the item in particular,"
Wiseman said, bending down by
the citadel. A soldier was in the
process of squirming on his belly
toward it. "As you can see, there
are a dozen soldiers. Given that
many, and the energy available to
them, plus the complex instruction
Fowler interrupted, "I see only
"One's probably hiding," Wise-
From behind them, a voice said,
"No, he's right." Pinario, a rigid ex-
pression on his face, appeared.
"I've been having a search made.
One is gone."
The three men were silent.
"Maybe the citadel destroyed
him," Wiseman finally suggested.
Pinario said, "There's a law of
matter dealing with that. If it 'de-
stroyed' him — what did it do with
"Possibly converted him into en-
ergy," Fowler said, examining the
citadel and the remaining soldiers.
"We did something ingenious,"
Pinario said, "when we realized
that a soldier was gone. We
weighed the remaining eleven plus
the citadel. Their combined weight
is exactly equal to that of the origi-
nal set — the original dozen sol-
diers and the citadel. So he's in
there somewhere." He pointed at
the citadel, which at the moment,
was pinpointing the soldiers ad-
vancing toward it.
Studying the citadel, Wiseman
had a deep intuitive feeling. It had
changed. It was, in some manner,
"Run your tapes," Wiseman said.
"What?" asked Pinario, and then
he flushed. "Of course." Going to
the child-dummy, he shut it off,
opened it, and removed the drum of
video recording tape. Shakily, he
carried it to the projector.
They sat watching the recording
sequences flash by : one assault aft-
er another, until the three of them
were bleary-eyed. The soldiers ad-
vanced, retreated, were fired on,
picked themselves up, advanced
again . . .
"Stop the transport," Wiseman
The last sequence was re-run.
A soldier moved steadily toward
the base of the citadel. A missile,
fired at him, exploded and for a
time obscured him. Meanwhile, the
other eleven soldiers scurried in a
wild attempt to mount the walls.
The soldier emerged from the
cloud of dust and continued. He
reached the wall. A section slid
The soldier, blending with the
dingy wall of the citadel, used the
end of his rifle as a screwdriver to
remove his head, then one arm,
then both legs. The disassembled
pieces were passed into the aper-
ture of the citadel. When only the
arm and rifle remained, that, too,
crawled into the citadel, worming
blindly, and vanished. The aper-
ture slid out of existence.
After a long time, Fowler said in
a hoarse voice, "The presumption
by the parent would be that the
child had lost or destroyed one of
the soldiers. Gradually the set
would dwindle — with the child get-
ting the blame."
Pinario said, "What do you
"Keep it in action," Fowler said,
with a nod from Wiseman. "Let it
work out its cycle. But don't leave
"I'll have somebody in the room
with it from now on," Pinario
"Better yet, stay with it your-
self," Fowler said.
To himself, Wiseman thought:
Maybe we all better stay with it.
At least two of us, Pinario and my-
I wonder what it did with the
pieces, he thought.
What did it make?
T> Y the end of the week, the cita-
-*-* del had absorbed four more
of the soldiers.
Watching it through a monitor,
Wiseman could see in it no visible
change. Naturally. The growth
would be strictly internal, down
out of sight
On and on the eternal assaults,
the soldiers wriggling up, the cita-
del firing in defense. Meanwhile, he
had before him a new series of
Ganymedean products. More
recent children's toys to be in-
"Now what?" he asked himself.
The first was an apparently sim-
ple item: a cowboy costume from
the ancient American West. At
least, so it was described. But he
paid only cursory attention to the
brochure: the hell with what the
Ganymedeans had to say about it.
Opening the box, he laid out the
costume. The fabric had a gray,
amorphous quality. What a miser-
ably bad job, he thought. It only
vaguely resembled a cowboy suit;
the lines seemed unformed, hesi-
tant. And the material stretched
out of shape as he handled it. He
found that he had pulled an entire
section of it into a pocket that hung
"I don't get it," he said to Pi-
nario. "This won't sell."
"Put it on," Pinario said. "You'll
With effort, Wiseman managed
to squeeze himself into the suit. "Is
it safe?" he asked.
"Yes," Pinario said. "I had it on
earlier. This is a more benign idea.
But it could be effective. To start
it into action, you fantasize."
"Along what lines?"
The, suit made Wiseman think
of cowboys, and so he imagined to
himself that he was back at the
ranch, trudging along the gravel
road by the field in which black-
faced sheep munched hay with that
odd, rapid grinding motion of their
lower jaws. He had stopped at the
fence — barbed wire and occasional
upright posts — and watched the
sheep. Then, without warning, the
sheep lined up and headed off, in
the direction of a shaded hillside
beyond his range of vision.
TTE saw trees, Cyprus growing
-"--*- against the skyline. A chicken
hawk, far up, flapped its wings in
a pumping action ... as if, he
thought, it's filling itself with more
air, to rise higher. The hawk glided
energetically off, then sailed at a
leisurely pace. Wiseman looked for
a sign of its prey. Nothing but the
dry mid-summer fields munched
flat by the sheep. Frequent grass-
hoppers. And, on the road itself, a
toad. The toad had burrowed into
the loose dirt; only its top part was
As he bent down, trying to get up
enough courage to touch the warty
top of the toad's head, a man's voice
said nearby him, "How do you like
"Fine," Wiseman said. He took a
deep breath of the dry grass smell;
he filled his lungs. "Hey, how do
you tell a female toad from a male
toad? By the spots, or what?"
"Why?" asked the man, stand-
ing behind him slightly out of sight.
I've got a toad here."
"Just for the record," the man
said, "can I ask you a couple of
"Sure," Wiseman said.
"How old are you?"
That was easy. "Ten years and
four months," he said, with pride.
"Where exactly are you, at this
"Out in the country, Mr. Gay-
lord's ranch, where my dad takes
me and my mother every week-
end when we can."
"Turn around and look at me,"
the man said. "And tell me if you
With reluctance, he turned from
the half-buried toad to look. He saw
an adult with a thin face and a long,
somewhat irregular nose. "You're
the man who delivers the butane
gas," he said. "For the butane com-
pany." He glanced around, and sure
enough, there was the truck, parked
by the butane gate. "My dad says
butane is expensive, but there's no
The man broke in, "Just for the
sake of curiosity, whaf s the name
of the butane company?"
"It's right on the truck," Wise-
man said, reading the large painted
letters. "Pinario Butane Distribu-
tors, Petaluma, California. You're
"Would you be willing to swear
that you're ten years old, stand-
ing in a field near Petaluma, Cali-
fornia?" Mr. Pinario asked.
"Sure." He could see, beyond the
field, a range of wooded hills. Now
he wanted to investigate them; he
was tired of standing around gab-
bing. "I'll see you," he said, start-
ing off. "I have to go get some hik-
He started running, away from
Mr. Pinario, down the gravel road.
Grasshoppers leaped away, ahead
of him. Gasping, he ran faster and
"Leon!" Mr. Pinario called after
him. "You might as well give up!
"I've got business in those hills,"
Wiseman panted, still jogging
along. Suddenly something struck
him full force; he sprawled on his
hands, tried to get back up. In the
dry midday air, something shim-
mered; he felt fear and pulled away
from it. A shape formed, a flat
"You won't get to those hills,"
Mr. Pinario said, from behind him.
"Better stay in roughly one place.
Otherwise you collide with things."
Wiseman's hands were damp
with blood; he had cut himself fall-
ing. In bewilderment, he stared
down at the blood . . .
P INARIO helped him out of the
•*• cowboy suit, saying, "It's as un-
wholesome a toy as you could want.
A short period with it on, and the
child would be unable to face con-
temporary reality. Look at you."
Standing with difficulty, Wise-
man inspected the suit; Pinario had
forcibly taken it from him.
"Not bad," he said in a trembling
voice. "It obviously stimulates the
withdrawal tendencies already
present. I know I've always had a
latent retreat fantasy toward my
childhood. That particular period,
when we lived in the country."
"Notice how you incorporated
real elements into it," Pinario said,
"to keep the fantasy going as long
as possible. If you'd had time, you
would have figured a way of incor-
porating the lab wall into it, pos-
sibly as the side of a barn."
Wiseman admitted, "I — already
had started to see the old dairy
building, where the farmers brought
their market milk."
"In time," Pinario said, "it would
have been next to impossible to get
you out of it."
To himself, Wiseman thought, If
it could do that to an adult, just
imagine the effect on a child.
"That other thing you have
there," Pinario said, "that game, it's
a screwball notion. You feel like
looking at it now? It can wait."
"I'm okay," Wiseman said. He
picked up the third item and be-
gan to open it
"A lot like the old game of
Monopoly," Pinario said. "It's
The game consisted of a board,
plus play money, dice, pieces to
represent the players. And stock
"You acquire stock," Pinario
said, "same as in all this kind, ob-
viously." He didn't even bother to
look at the instructions. "Let's get
Fowler down here and play a hand;
it takes at least three."
Shortly, they had the Division
Director with them. The three men
seated themselves at a table, the
game of Syndrome in the center.
"Each player starts out equal
with the others," Pinario explained,
"same as all this type, and during
the play, their statuses change ac-
cording to the worth of the stock
they acquire in various economic
The syndromes were repre-
sented by small, bright plastic ob-
jects, much like the archaic hotels
and houses of Monopoly.
They threw the dice, moved
their counters along the board, bid
for and acquired property, paid
fines, collected fines, went to the
"decontamination chamber" for a
period. Meanwhile, behind them,
the seven model soldiers crept up
on the citadel again and again.
"I'm tired of that," the child-
dummy said. "Do something else."
The soldiers regrouped. Once
more they started out, getting near-
er and nearer the citadel.
Restless and irritable, Wiseman
said, "I wonder how long that damn
thing has to go on before we find
out what if s for."
"No telling." Pinario eyed a pur-
ple-and-gold share of stock that
Fowler had acquired. "I can use
that," he said. "That's a heavy uran-
ium mine stock on Pluto. What do
you want for it?"
"Valuable property," Fowler
murmured, consulting his other
stocks. "I might make a trade,
OW can I concentrate on a
game, Wiseman asked him-
self, when that thing is getting
closer and nearer to — God knows
what? To whatever it was built to
reach. Its critical mass, he thought
"Just a second," he said in a slow,
careful voice. He put down his hand
of stocks. "Could that citadel be a
"Pile of what?" Fowler asked,
concerned with his hand.
Wiseman said loudly, "Forget
"An interesting idea," Pinario
said, also putting down his hand.
"It's constructing itself into an
atomic bomb, piece by piece. Add-
ing until—" He broke off. "No, we
thought of that. There're no heavy
elements present in it. It's simply
a five-year battery, plus a number
of small machines controlled by in-
structions broadcast from the bat-
tery itself. You can't make an
atomic pile out of that."
"In my opinion," Wiseman said,
"we'd be safer getting it out of
here." His experience with the cow-
boy suit had given him a great deal
more respect for the Ganymedean
artificers. And if the suit was the
benign one . . .
Fowler, looking past his shoul-
der, said, "There are only six sol-
Both Wiseman and Pinario got
up instantly. Fowler was right.
Only half of the set of soldiers re-
mained. One more had reached the
citadel and been incorporated.
"Let's get a bomb expert from
the Military Services in here,"
Wiseman said, "and let him check
it. This is out of our department."
He turned to his boss, Fowler.
"Don't you agree?"
Fowler said, "Lefs finish this
"Because we want to be certain
about it," Fowler said. But his rapt
interest showed that he had gotten
emotionally involved and wanted
to play to the end of the game.
"What will you give me for this
share of Pluto stock? I'm open to
He and Pinario negotiated a
trade. The game continued for an-
other hour. At last, all three of them
could see that Fowler was gaining
control of the various stocks. He
had five mining syndromes, plus
two plastics firms, an algae monop-
oly, and all seven of the retail trad-
ing syndromes. Due to his control
of the stock, he had, as a byproduct,
gotten most of the money.
"I'm out," Pinario said. All he
had left were minor shares which
controlled nothing. "Anybody want
to buy these?"
With his last remaining money,
Wiseman bid for the shares. He got
them and resumed playing, this
time against Fowler alone.
"It's clear that this game is a
replica of typical interculture eco-
nomic ventures," Wiseman said.
"The retail trading syndromes are
obviously Ganymede; *n hoi. «ngs."
A FLICKER of excitement
-^*- stirred in him; he had gotten
a couple of good throws with the
dice and was in a position to add a
share to his meager holdings. "Chil-
dren playing this would acquire a
healthy attitude toward economic
realities. It would prepare them for
the adult world."
But a few minutes later, he
landed on an enormous tract of
Fowler holdings, and the fine wiped
out his resources. He had to give
up two shares of stock; the end was
Pinario, watching the soldiers ad-
vance toward the citadel, said,
"You know, Leon, I'm inclined to
agree with you. This thing may be
one terminal of a bomb. A receiv-
ing station of some kind. When it's
completely wired up, it might bring
in a surge of power transmitted
"Is such a tiling possible?" Fow-
ler asked, stacking his play money
into the different denominations.
"Who knows what they can do?"
Pinario said, wandering around
with his hands in his pockets. Are
you almost finished playing?"
"Just about," Wiseman said.
"The reason I say that," Pinario
said, "is that now t only five
soldiers. It's speeding ip. It took a
week for the first one, md only an
hour for the seventh. I wouldn't be
surprised if the rest go within the
next two hours, all five of them."
"We're finished," Fowler said. He
had acquired the last share of stock
and the last dollar.
Wiseman arose from the table,
leaving Fowler. "I'll call Military
Services to check the citadel. About
this game, though, it's nothing but
a steal from our Terran game
"Possibly they don't realize that
we have the game already," Fowler
said, "under another name."
A stamp of admissibility was
placed on the game of Syndrome
and the importer was informed. In
his office, Wiseman called Military
Services and told them what he
"A bomb expert will be right
over," the unhurried voice at the
other end of the line said. "Prob-
ably you should leave the object
alone until he arrives."
Feeling somewhat useless, Wise-
man thanked the clerk and hung
up. They had failed to dope out the
soldlers-and-citadel war game; now
it was out of their hands.
THE bomb expert was a young
man, with close-cropped hair,
who smiled friendlily at them as he
set down his equipment. He wore
ordinary coveralls, with no protec-
"My first advice," he said, after
he had looked the citadel over, "is
to disconnect the leads from the
battery. Or, if you want, we can let
the cycle finish out, and then dis-
connect the leads before any reac-
tion takes place. In other words,
allow the last mobile elements to
enter the citadel. Then, as soon as
they're inside, we disconnect the
leads and open her up and see
what's been taking place."
"Is it safe?" Wiseman asked.
"I think so," the bomb expert
said. "I don't detect any sign of
radioactivity in it" He seated him-
self on the floor, by the rear of the
citadel, with a pair of cutting pliers
in his hand.
Now only three soldiers re-
"It shouldn't be long," the young
man said cheerfully.
Fifteen minutes later, one of the
three soldiers crept up to the base
of the citadel, removed his head,
arm, legs, body, and disappeared
piecemeal into the opening pro-
vided for him.
"That leaves two," Fowler said.
Ten minutes later, one of the two
remaining soldiers followed the one
ahead of him.
The four men looked at each
other. "This is almost it," Pinario
The last remaining soldier wove
his way toward the citadel. Guns
within the citadel fired at him, but
he continued to make progress.
"Statistically speaking," Wise-
man said aloud, to break some of
the tension, "it should take longer
each time, because there are fewer
men for it to concentrate on. It
should have started out fast, then
got more infrequent until finally
this last soldier should put in at
least a month trying to—"
"Pipe down," the young bomb
expert said in a quiet, reasonable
voice. "If you don't mind."
The last of the twelve soldiers
reached the base of the citadel.
Like those before him, he began to
"Get those pliers ready," Pinario
The parts of the soldier traveled
into the citadel. The opening began
to close. From within, a humming
became audible, a rising pitch of
"Now, for God's sake!" Fowler
The young bomb expert reached
down his pliers and cut into the
positive lead of the battery. A spark
flashed from the pliers and the
young bomb expert jumped reflex-
ively; the pliers flew from his hands
and skidded across the floor.
"Jeez!" he said. "I must have been
grounded." Groggily, he groped
about for the pliers.
"You were touching the frame
of the thing" Pinario said excit-
edly. He grabbed the pliers him-
self and crouched down, fumbling
for the lead. "Maybe if I wrap a
handkerchief around it," he mut-
tered, withdrawing the pliers and
fishing in his pocket for a handker-
chief. "Anybody got any thing I can
wrap around this? I don't want to
get knocked flat. No telling how
many — "
"Give it to me," Wiseman de-
manded, snatching the pliers from
him. He shoved Pinario aside and
closed the jaws of the pliers about
Fowler said calmly, "Too late."
YfTISEMAN hardly heard his su-
™ periods voice; he heard the
constant tone within his head, and
he put up his hands to his ears, fu-
tilely, trying to shut it out. Now it
seemed to pass directly from the
citadel through his skull, trans-
mitted by the bone. We stalled
around too long, he thought. Now
it has us. It won out because there
are too many of us; we got to
Within his mind, a voice said,
"Congratulations. By your forti-
tude, you have been successful."
A vast feeling pervaded him
then, a sense of accomplishment
"The odds against you were tre-
mendous," the voice inside his mind
continued. "Anyone else would
He knew then that everything
was all right. They had been wrong.
"What you have done here," the
voice declared, "you can continue
to do all your life. You can always
triumph over adversaries. By pa-
tience and persistence, you can win
out The universe isn't such an
overwhelming place, after all . . ."
No, he realized with irony, it
"They are just ordinary persons,"
the voice soothed. "So even though
you're only one, an individual
against many, you have nothing to
fear. Give it time — and don't
"I won't," he said aloud.
The humming receded. The
voice was gone.
After a long pause, Fowler said,
"I don't get it," Pinario said.
"That was what it was supposed
to do," Wiseman said. "It's a thera-
peutic toy. Helps give the child
confidence. The disassembling of
the soldiers — " he grinned — "ends
the separation between him and the
world. He becomes one with it.
And, in doing so, conquers it"
"Then it's harmless," Fowler
"All this work for nothing," Pi-
nario groused. To the bomb expert,
he said, "I'm sorry we got you up
here for nothing."
The citadel had now opened its
gates wide. Twelve soldiers, once
more intact, issued forth. The cycle
was complete; the assault could
Suddenly Wiseman said, "I'm
not going to release it"
"What?" Pinario said. "Why
"I don't trust it," Wiseman said.
"It's too complicated for what it
"Explain," Fowler demanded.
"There's nothing to explain,"
Wiseman said. "Here's this im-
mensely intricate gadget, and all
it does is take itself apart and then
reassemble itself. There must be
more, even if we can't—"
"It's therapeutic," Pinario put in.
Fowler said, "I'll leave it up to
you, Leon. If you have doubts,
then don't release it. We can't be
"Maybe I'm wrong," Wiseman
said, "but I keep thinking to my-
self: What did they actually build
this for? I feel we still don't know."
"And the American Cowboy
Suit," Pinario added. "You don't
want to release that either."
"Only the game," Wiseman said.
"Syndrome, or whatever it's called."
Bending down, he watched the sol-
diers as they hustled toward the
citadel. Bursts of smoke, again . . .
activity, feigned attacks, careful
withdrawals . . .
"What are you thinking?" Pi-
nario asked, scrutinizing him.
"Maybe it's a diversion," Wise-
man said. "To keep our minds in-
volved. So we won't notice some-
thing else." That was his intuition,
but he couldn't pin it down. "A red
herring," he said. "While something
else takes place. That's why it's so
complicated. We were supposed to
suspect it. That's why they built
Baffled, he put his foot down in.
front of a soldier. The soldier took
refuge behind his shoe, hiding from
the monitors of the citadel.
"There must be something right
before our eyes," Fowler said,
"that we're not noticing."
"Yes." Wiseman wondered if
they would ever find it. "Anyhow,"
he said, "we're keeping it here,
where we can observe it."
Seating himself nearby, he pre-
pared to watch the soldiers. He
made himself comfortable for a
long, long wait.
A T six o'clock that evening, Joe
^"* Hauck, the sales manager for
Appeley's Children's Store, parked
his car before his house, got out, and
strode up the stairs.
Under his arm he carried a large
flat package, a "sample" that he
"Hey!" his two kids, Bobby and
Lora, squealed as he let himself in.
"You got something for us, Dad?"
They crowded around him, block-
ing his path. In the kitchen, his
wife looked up from the table and
put down her magazine.
"A new game I picked up for
you," Hauck said. He unwrapped
the package, feeling genial. There
was no reason why he shouldn't
help himself to one of the new
games; he had been on the phone
for weeks, getting the stuff through
Import Standards — and after all
was said and done, only one of the
three items had been cleared.
As* the kids went off with the
game, his wife said in a low voice,
"More corruption in high places."
She had always disapproved of his
bringing home items from the
"We've got thousands of them,"
Hauck said. "A warehouse full. No-
body'll notice one missing."
At the dinner table, during the
meal, the kids scrupulously studied
every word of the instructions that
accompanied the game. They were
aware of nothing else.
"Don't read at the table," Mrs.
Hauck said reprovingly.
Leaning back in his chair, Joe
Hauck continued his account of the
day. "And after all that time, what
did they release? One lousy item.
We'll be lucky if we can push
enough to make a profit. It was that
Shock Troop gimmick that would
really have paid off. And that's tied
He lit a cigarette and relaxed,
feeling the peacefulness of his
home, the presence of his wife and
His daughter said, "Dad, do you
want to play? It says the more who
play, the better."
"Sure," Joe Hauck said.
While his wife cleared the table,
he and his children spread out the
board, counters, dice and paper
money and shares of stock. Almost
at once he was deep in the game,
totally involved; his childhood
memories of game-playing swam
back, and he acquired shares of
stock with cunning and originality,
until, toward the conclusion of the
game, he had cornered most of the
He settled back with a sigh of
contentment. "Thaf s that," he de-
clared to his children. "Afraid I had
a head start. After all, I'm not
new to this type of game." Getting
hold of the valuable holdings on
the board filled him with a power-
ful sense of satisfaction. "Sorry to
have to win, kids."
His daughter said, "You didn't
"You lost," his son said.
"What?" Joe Hauck exclaimed.
"The person who winds up with
the most stock loses" Lora said.
SHE showed him the instructions.
"See? The idea is to get rid of
your stocks. Dad, you're out of the
"The heck with that," Hauck
said, disappointed. "That's no kind
of game." His satisfaction vanished.
"That's no fun."
"Now we two have to play out
the game," Bobby said, "to see who
As he got up from the board, Joe
Hauck grumbled, "I don't get it.
What would anybody see in a game
where the winner winds up with
nothing at all?"
Behind him, his two children
continued to play. As stock and
money changed hands, the children
became more and more animated.
When the game entered its final
stages, the children were in a state
of ecstatic concentration.
"They don't know Monopoly,"
Hauck said to himself, "so this
screwball game doesn't seem
strange to them."
Anyhow, the important thing
was that the kids enjoyed playing
Syndrome; evidently it would sell,
and that was what mattered. Al-
ready the two youngsters were
learning the naturalness of surren-
dering their holdings. They gave
up their stocks and money avidly,
with a kind of trembling abandon.
Glancing up, her eyes bright,
Lora said, "It's the best educational
toy you ever brought home, Dad!"
—PHILIP K. DICK
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BY WILLY LEY
DEAD OR ALIVE?
URING the early part of
the eighteenth century
some very vague rumors
about gigantic bones reached Paris.
Unaccompanied by any evidence,
these rumors traveled via Spain,
for they originated from Argentina.
Shorn of embroidery and conjec-
ture, they stated that large bones
could be found in the pampas.
These were said to be as large as
the bones of elephants.
The gentlemen of the Academy
in Paris decided that it was best
not to say anything. As far as any-
body knew, there were no ele-
phants in the Americas. Still, South
America was not well explored yet,
so — let the Spaniards prove their
case if they have one.
It so happened that they did.
During the earlier years of the
18th century only occasional single
bones had been seen by literate
men, usually in places where a river
cut into the soil of the pampas. In
1789 a complete skeleton was
found, fortunately not too far from
Buenos Aires, at a place called
Lujan. The viceroy ordered that
the bones be excavated and sent to
came to the foot skeleton and the
skull. They did not resemble any-
thing ever seen before, at least not
in such a size. The skull showed
clearly that this giant was a sloth.
Now it needed a name, which
was compounded from the two
Greek words for "large" (megas)
and "mammal" (therion) in the
Latinized version of Megatherium
Naturally things did not stop
with this first skeleton. Pictures of
it got into books, partly because it
was the first and partly because it
was so big.
More discoveries were made and
Madrid. There a scientist named scientists soon knew that there had
Garriga assembled them and, in
1796, published a first description.
HP HE animal had been about the
■*• size of an elephant, or would
have been if its legs had been a
little longer. It stood eight feet tall
at the shoulder and had an overall
length of 14 feet.
The first thing that impressed
Garriga was the legs, but not be-
cause they were beautiful. The
bones were incredibly heavy, far
more massive than the correspond-
ing bones of an elephant. The tail
was also very massive and long for
a big animal (which usually have
tiny tails) because it was long
enough to just touch the ground.
But while the comparison with an
elephant was obvious because of
the size, it broke down when it
been several species of giant sloth.
The second species to be definitely
established was Mylodon robustus
(Fig. 1), which was 11 feet long
and differed from Megatherium
mostly in having forelegs about as
long as its hindlegs; in Megather-
ium the forelegs are a good deal
longer than the hindlegs.
The third species was named
Mylodon gracilis. Now the word
gracilis would normally be trans-
lated as "dainty," but in this case
the normal, or any other, transla-
tion just did not apply. The animal
was by no means "dainty." It was
a heavy-boned nine-foot monster.
It is possible that gracilis was
used merely as the opposite of
robustus. It is more likely that this
name is a case of Teutonic humor,
for the man who coined it was Pro-
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
fessor Hermann Burmeister, of
Germany, who had gone to South
America on a trip of exploration
and then decided to stay and settle
down, mostly because of Mega-
therium and Mylodon.
TTERMANN Burmeister was
-*--■- fifty years old when he made
this decision (in 1861 or 1862),
but he still managed to enjoy thir-
ty-one years of residence in the
country he adopted for zoological
reasons. When I state that he "en-
joyed" these years, I do not use
the term loosely. According to all
accounts, life in Prof. Burmeister's
house was friendly, witty and gay,
and it was permanently open to
any fellow scientist and any intelli-
gent layman who was willing to
talk Megatherium and other pam-
pas fossils. That there could pos-
sibly ever be a shortage of domes-
tic or imported wines never oc-
curred to Burmeister, unless he had
nightmares, which seems unlikely.
Burmeister's closest scientific as-
sociate and his successor (when
Burmeister died in 1892 at the age
of 85) was Professor Florentino
Ameghino. Up to 1892, expert de-
scriptions of pampas fossils had
been in German; from then on,
they were in Spanish. But behind
all the scientific gaiety and the fun
and thrill of a steady stream of dis-
coveries there was one unanswered
question. How old were the bones
Burmeister and Ameghino dug up,
cleaned, measured, assembled and
This question at that time was
simply unanswerable, but Burmeis-
ter thought that while he could not
name a figure, he could at least
give an answer of sorts.
There was general agreement
that man had originated in Asia
and invaded the American double
continent via the Bering Strait.
This naturally meant that man had
arrived in South America much
later than in North America, since
he had to traverse the length of the
North American continent first.
Any figures which were then men-
tioned were naturally guesses; man
had probably arrived at the north-
ern end of South America 3000 to
5000 years ago. Burmeister based
his answer on this figure.
Man and Megatherium had
never met, Burmeister was con-
vinced, because the natives did not
have any recollection of such ani-
mals and had invented a legend to
account for the bones. They
thought that the large animal was
something like a gigantic mole
which was instantly killed by sun-
light if it inadvertently "broke sur-
Burmeister's ideas might have
been well reasoned, but the facts
were against him. Megatherium,
the giant sloth, was very often as-
sociated with a giant armadillo —
Glyptodon — and the two animals
had obviously lived at the same
time. But remains of Glyptodon
and human artifacts were some-
times found together, and the prize
discovery was a human skeleton
sitting inside the giant carapace of
a glyptodon. This was certainly an
ancient form of burial for some-
body of importance. Finally, a
skeleton of Megatherium was un-
earthed which was incomplete in a
significant manner. The four legs
were there and undisturbed, but
most of the other bones were miss-
ing, and there had been a fire in the
center, between the legs. It was
perfectly apparent that here was a
giant sloth that had been caught in
a pit and roasted right in the trap
There was no doubt then that
the early South American Indians
had known Megatherium "in the
flesh," but it still did not answer
the question: when had this hap-
TN the meanwhile something else
■*■ had taken place which did not
seem to have a connection for a
long time. By coincidence, another
German who had made his home
in South America figures in this
section of the story, though not as
prominently by far as Professor
Near the southern end of Pata-
gonia there is a fjord or inlet — lo-
cally called a "canal" — with the
gloomy name of Ultima Esperanza
(Last Hope). There the retired
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
German sea captain Eberhard
bought himself some land and built
a house. Visitors to the Eberhard
ranch noticed that the hide of a
large animal was hanging over
some bushes. Some of these visi-
tors — or so it was told later —
tried to cut a piece off that hide,
which proved to be extraordinarily
difficult. The reason was that a
large number of bean-sized "bones"
were embedded in the hide. If any
one of these visitors had been a
naturalist, this fact would have
done more than just make him sus-
picious; but evidently nobody, in-
cluding Captain Eberhard, had any
profound knowledge of natural his-
At some time — the date is un-
certain, but it was after Burmeis-
ter's death — such a piece of skin
reached Ameghino. It has never
been established whether this par-
ticular piece came from the Eber-
hard ranch; Ameghino himself did
not think so. The important thing
was that this piece of skin was, or
looked, fresh. Not fresh like ani-
mal skin in a butcher shop, but
rather like untanned hide in a sad-
dler's establishment. In any case it
certainly was not fossil and Ame-
ghino decided that logic, however
incredible, had to prevail. A piece
of Mylodon skin proved that the
animal still existed somewhere.
Ameghino called a press confer-
ence. Newspapers around the
world carried articles which de-
clared: "The Giant Sloth Is not
Extinct." The very fact that this
animal, which for so many years
had been so proverbially extinct,
was supposed to be still alive set
thought going in various directions
Was there any evidence in addi-
tion to the piece of skin?
Did somebody in the past men-
tion the giant sloth in any man-
ner, probably with a native name
which conveyed no meaning to
And, finally, where can they be
found, to be captured for a zoologi-
Professor Ameghino said that
he did have additional evidence.
Besides his piece of skin from an
unknown source, there was the Ul-
tima Esperanza hide. And then,
there was the story told by Ramon
Lista, onetime Governor of Santa
Cruz — he was later killed by In-
Lista reported that he had been
with a hunting party in the interior
of Patagonia. While camping at
night, he and his party had seen an
unknown animal which looked
somewhat like a pangolin, except
that it was covered with long hair.
The animal escaped, even though
the hunters shot at it with their
QINCE Ramon Lista was a
^ learned man with much exper-
ience in Patagonia (he wrote sev-
eral books about his land which re-
ceived high praise and are said
to be still worthwhile reading), a
story like this deserved attention.
Strangely enough, Ameghino at
first disregarded it, thinking that
Lista must have been somehow
mistaken. But then he suddenly
changed his mind. A while later he
even coined the scientific name
Neomylodon listai (Lista's New
Mylodon) and pointed out that it
was quite possible that one or more
of the hunters* shots had hit, but
that they did no harm because of
the bony nodules in a Mylodon's
Then a native legend about a
Iemish was dragged into the giant
sloth debate and things really be-
came confused. The Iemish was
claimed to be a large beast that
lived both on land and in the
water, usually hiding in the water.
It was a flesh-eater and drowned
horses to eat them. Or else the
Iemish was a beast the size of an
ox that was harmless and noctur-
nal. During the day it slept in bur-
rows which it had dug with its large
claws. Finally somebody supplied
Ameghino with a "translation" of
the word Iemish: it was supposed
to mean "the one with little stones
on it." Ameghino thought that all
this went together beautifully and
could apply only to the Neomylo-
don listai that he had named.
All this, however, did not go to-
gether beautifully. An animal is
either a flesh-eater, in which case
it? can't be called harmless, or it is
harmless, in which case it is not
likely to be a flesh-eater. But while
this could be reasoned out by logic
alone, it took an enormous amount
of work to establish how the con-
fusion had taken place.
The legend of the Iemish, the
one that often retreats into the
water and is a flesh-eater, refers es-
sentially to the jaguar, which is a
carnivore and does swim well. It
probably also contains some con-
fusion with the giant river otter of
South America, which is of nearly
the same size, is also carnivorous,
like all otters, and, like all otters,
lives in the water. The names which
could be found in dictionaries that
sound like iemish mostly are na-
tive words for "otter*
Of course the word does not
translate the way Ameghino re-
ported. It seems to be simply a
name. But Ameghino, having been
handed this significant-looking
"translation* by somebody, made
the mistake of applying the name
iemish to the other legend about
the ox-sized harmless nocturnal
animal. (It might be added that
the two legends did not exist in the
same place. Their origins were
1500 or more miles apart.)
Ameghino, after having made
this mistake, concluded that he
had taken care of the question of
available evidence. Then he set
out to answer the second question;
namely, whether the giant sloth
might not have been mentioned by
early writers on South America un-
der another and probably native
name. Here he was not only far
more careful, he was also more suc-
He came across a book entitled
Hist or ia de la Conquista del Para-
guay, Rio de la Plata y Tucuman
by Father Pedro Lozano, S. J., pub-
lished 1740-1746, in which an ani-
mal su or succarath was mentioned.
It was said to be large and to have
the habit of carrying its young on
its back. The natives were stated
to hunt it in spite of the dangers
involved, for they wanted its skin
to make durable cloaks.
ARDLY anybody in Europe
had ever heard of Father Lo-
zano before, but when Ameghino
reported on the su in professional
journals, all European zoologists
had an automatic reaction. They
knew the su. Its picture, however
fantastic, was on the title page of
the enormous zoology book by the
Swiss savant Konrad Gesner (Fig.
2) which every one of the Euro-
peans had read.
There in volume one of Gesner's
Hist or ia animalium (published in
Zurich in 1955) one could find a
paragraph headed De Subo ("Of
the Su") which translates as fol-
The Most Obnoxious Animal that
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
might be seen, called Su in the New
Lands. There is a place in the newly
found land where lives a people call-
ing itself in its language Patagones, and
since the land is not very warm they
cover themselves with fur from an ani-
mal they call Su, which means Water,
by reason of its dwelling mainly near
water. It is very dreadful, obnoxious, as
may be seen. When hunted by the hun-
ters, it takes its young upon its back,
covers them with its long tail and thus
flees. It is caught in pits and killed with
This had made no sense until
the fight about the still-living giant
sloth started; now things had
changed so that Gesner's para-
graph might make an exciting kind
As long as nobody had paid
much attention to Gesner's para-
graph as a whole, even less atten-
tion had been paid to a note which
said that this description had been
taken from "Andreas Theuetus."
Since Gesner wrote in Latin, it was
only logical that he used the Latin-
ized form; actually this was the
name of Andre Thevet. Thevefs
paragraph on the Su is the same as
Gesner's naturally, but Thevet has
one more sentence telling what
happens after a su has fallen into
When it sees that it is caught, it
maims and kills its young (as if mad-
dened) and gives such terrible cries
that it makes the Savages very fearful
and timid. Yet in the end they kill it
with arrows and then they flay it.
Incidentally, each of the learned
men made a linguistic mistake.
Gesner did not know that the name
of the Patagonians is not derived
from their own language, and The-
vet was wrong in thinking that su
means water. Its meaning is "cov-
ering/' Ameghino came close by
translating su as "cloak." Thevet
is the only literary source which
might be construed as referring to
a giant sloth. If one wants to ac-
cept it — and I don't see why not —
one of the smaller forms of giant
sloth must have been still alive in
the southern part of South Amer-
ica during the Middle Ages.
HP HERE are two more things:
■*• Where did the hide on Captain
Eberhard's ranch come from?
. Well, Captain Eberhard him-
self located a cave some dis-
tance from his home. The cave was
almost completely closed (one
could just squeeze through) by a
wall of boulders which was obvi-
ously piled up by people. Inside
the cave, the amateur explorers
found a human skeleton, two more
hides, and what is generally called
a kitchen midden. Later, profes-
sional investigators discovered
Mylodon droppings over a foot
deep, and when they went to work
on these droppings, they saw that
they contained ends of plant stalks
which had been cut. The teeth of
the animals could not have pro-
duced such a clean end.
Fig. 1: Reconstruction of extinct giant sloth Mylodon.
One of the investigators, Profes-
sor Santiago Roth, then proposed
to rename the animal Grypother-
ium domesticum, since the Indians
had apparently domesticated it.
This would not have been impos-
sible by itself, but there is one
major fact that speaks against the
idea: domesticated animals do not
become extinct! Man sees to it that
they don't. If the Indians had wide-
ly domesticated the Mylodon, it
would still be around with its mas-
ters. More likely the animals were
just rounded up in the open and
chased into the cave, where they
were kept alive with forage until
the time came to kill and eat them.
Before finishing up with the cur-
rent scientific opinion about the
whole matter, one episode, amus-
ing in retrospect, must be told.
Early in this century Sir Ray Lan-
kester, director of the Natural His-
tory Museum in London, per-
mitted himself to be quoted to the
effect that it seemed possible that
a ground sloth of the Mylodon
type might still be alive in little-
known parts of Patagonia.
This was good enough for the
owner of the London Daily Ex-
press. He decided to finance an ex-
pedition to Patagonia to search for
a living mylodon and bring it back
to England, alive if possible, dead
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Fig. 2: The animal Su as it appears on title page of Konrad Gesner's Historia Animalium
if it could not be helped.
The expedition was headed by
a man named Hesketh H. Pritch-
ard, who must have been an impa-
tient type. Nobody knew at the
time that Ameghino had blundered
with respect to the Iemish, so
Pritchard set out with what he be-
lieved to be a body of facts to guide
him. In South America, he quick-
Jy learned that a major mistake
had been made somewhere and he
grew furious. Though he had trav-
eled thousands of miles and had
only another two or three hundred
miles to go to reach Captain Eber-
hard's ranch, he did not do so.
He turned around, went back to
England and wrote perhaps the
most ill-tempered book ever
printed. The Iemish did not exist,
the legend about it was the inven-
tion of some publicity seekers, the
whole thing was a pack of lies and,
most important, he, Hesketh H.
Pritchard, had been hoaxed.
Well, how do things stand now?
NE of the newer and most use-
ful tools of science, radio-car-
bon dating, does not help much
here for lack of material. The first
list of radio-carbon dates (Science,
February 2, 1951) contained two
entries about giant sloth material.
They were :
Chilean Sloth: Dung of giant
sloth from Mylodon Cave,
Ultima Esperanza, Chile (51°
35'S.). Not associated with
human artifacts, though sloth
and man found together in
three caves 125 miles dis-
tant (c/. sample 485) 10,800
± 570; 10,864 ± 720; 10,832
± 400 (years).
Chilean Bone: Burned bone
of sloth, horse and guanaco,
associated with human bones
and artifacts. Valuable in de-
termining time of arrival of
man at tip of South America.
Material found in Palliaike
Cave, 125 miles east of My-
lodon. Comment: Most an-
cient of human samples from
South America. 8639 ± 450.
In other words, the samples that
happened to be dated are pretty
old and do not help us in determin-
ing how long the giant sloth lived
in South America. It would be so
nice if we found a sample which at
least makes it certain that Thevefs
Su was a ground sloth.
Pritchard's expedition was not
the last. Two others were organ-
ized. Both returned empty-handed.
This, of course, is not proof that
there are no living ground sloths
any more; large portions of South
America are still poorly known.
And one can always argue that it
is hard to see why a plant-eater
should become extinct in green
South America, where there have
been no climatic changes for thou-
sands of years. There is no answer
to that argument except that no
living, or freshly killed, ground
sloth has yet turned up.
— WILLY LEY
FIGHT CANCER WITH A
CHECKUP AND A CHECK
AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
By JIM HARMON
Certainly I see things
that aren't there
and don't say what my
voice says—but how
can I prove
that I don't have my health?
WHEN he began his talk
with "You got your health,
don't you?" it touched
those spots inside me. That was
when I did it.
Why couldn't what he said have
been "The best things in life are
free, buddy" or "Every dog has his
day, fellow" or "If at first you don't
succeed, man"? No, he had to use
that one line. You wouldn't blame
me. Not if you believe me.
Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS
The first thing I can remember,
the start of all this, was when I
was four or five somebody was soil-
ing my bed for me. I absolutely was
not doing it. I took long naps morn-
ing and evening so I could lie
awake all night to see that it
wouldn't happen. It couldn't hap-
pen. But in the morning the bed
would sit there dispassionately
soiled and convict me on circum-
stantial evidence. My punishment
was as sure as the tide.
Dad was a compact man, small
eyes, small mouth, tight clothes.
He was narrow but not mean. For
punishment, he locked me in a win-
dowless room and told me to sit
still until he came back. It wasn't
so bad a punishment, except that
when Dad closed the door, the light
turned off and I was left there in
Being four or five, I didn't know
any better, so I thought Dad made
it dark to add to my punishment.
But I learned he didn't know the
light went out. It came back on
when he unlocked the door. Every
time I told him about the light as
soon as I could talk again, but he
said I was lying.
i^kNE day, to prove me a liar, he
^-* opened and closed the door
a few times from outside. The lignt
winked off and on, off and on, al-
ways shining when Dad stuck his
head inside. He tried using the door
from the inside, and the light
stayed on, no matter how hard he
slammed the door.
I stayed in the dark longer for
lying about the light.
Alone in the dark, I wouldn't
have had it so bad if it wasn't for
the things that came to me.
They were real to me. They
never touched me, but they had a
little boy. He looked the way I did
in the mirror. They did unpleasant
things to him.
Because they were real, I talked
about them as if they were real, and
I almost earned a bunk in the home
for retarded children until I got
smart enough to keep the beasts to
My mother hated me. I loved
her, of course. I remember her
smell mixed up with flowers and
cookies and winter fires. I remem-
ber she hugged me on my ninth
birthday. The trouble came from
the notes written in my awkward
hand that she found, calling her
names I didn't understand. Some-
times there were drawings. I didn't
write those notes or make those
My mother and father must
have been glad when I was sent
away to reform school after my
thirteenth birthday party, the one
no one came to.
The reform school was nicer.
There were others there who'd had
it about like me. We got along. I
didn't watch their shifty eyes too
much, or ask them what they
shifted to see. They didn't talk
about my screams at night.
It was home.
My trouble there was that I was
always being framed for stealing.
I didn't take any of those things
they located in my bunk. Stealing
wasn't in my line. If you believe
any of this at all, you'll see why it
couldn't be me who did the steal-
There was reason for me to steal,
if I could have got away with it.
The others got money from home
to buy the things they needed —
razor blades, candy, sticks of tea.
I got a letter from Mom or Dad
every now and then before they
were killed, saying they had sent
money or that it was enclosed, but
somehow I never got a dime of it.
When I was expelled from re-
form school, I left with just one
idea in mind — to get all the money
I could ever use for the things I
needed and the things I wanted.
T was two or three years later
that I skulked into Brother
Partridge's mission on Durbin
The preacher and half a dozen
men were singing Onward Chris-
tian Soldiers in the meeting room.
It was a drafty hall with varnished
camp chairs. I shuffled in at the
back with my suitcoat collar turned
up around my stubbled jaw. I made
my hand shaky as I ran it through
my knotted hair. Partridge was
supposed to think I was just a bum.
As an inspiration, I hugged my
chest to make him think I was
some wino nursing a flask full of
Sneaky Pete. All I had there was a
piece of copper alloy tubing inside
a slice of plastic hose for taking
care of myself, rolling sailors and
the like. Who had the price of a
Partridge didn't seem to notice
me, but I knew that was an act. I
knew people were always watching
every move I made. He braced his
red-furred hands on the sides of his
auctioneer's stand and leaned his
splotched eagle beak toward us.
"Brothers, this being Thanksgiving,
I pray the good Lord that we all
are truly thankful for all that we
have received. Amen."
Some skin-and-bones character
I didn't know struggled out of his
seat, amening. I could see he had
a lot to be thankful for —
where he had received a fix.
"Brothers," Partridge went on
after enjoying the interruption with
a beaming smile, "you shall all be
entitled to a bowl of turkey soup
prepared by Sister Partridge, a
generous supply of sweet rolls and
dinner rolls contributed by the
Early Morning Bakery of this city,
and all the coffee you can drink.
Let us march out to The Stars and
Stripes Forever, John Philip
Sousa's grand old patriotic song."
I had to laugh at all those bums
clattering the chairs in front of me,
CHAR ITY CASE
scampering after water soup and
stale bread. As soon as I got
cleaned up, I was going to have
dinner in a good restaurant, and I
was going to order such expensive
food and leave such a large tip for
the waiter and send one to the chef
that they were going to think I
was rich, and some executive with
some brokerage firm would see me
and say to himself, "Hmm, execu-
tive material. Just the type we
need. I beg your pardon, sir— * just
like the razor-blade comic-strip
ads in the old magazines that
Frankie the Pig sells three for a
I was marching. Man, was I ever
marching, but the secret of it was
I was only marking time the way
we did in fire drills at the school.
They passed me, every one of
them, and marched out of the meet-
ing room into the kitchen. Even
Partridge made his way down from
the auctioneer's stand like a vulture
with a busted wing and darted
through his private door.
I was alone, marking time behind
the closed half of double doors. One
good breath and I raced past the
open door and flattened myself to
the wall. Crockery was ringing and
men were slurping inside. No one
had paid any attention to me. That
was pretty odd. People usually
watch my every move, but a man's
luck has to change sometime,
Following the wallboard, I went
down the side of the room and
behind the last row of chairs, closer,
closer, and halfway up the room
again to the entrance— the entrance
and the little wooden box fastened
to the wall beside it.
The box was old and made out
of some varnished wood. There was
a slot in the top. There wasn't any
sign anywhere around it, but you
knew it wasn't a mailbox.
My hand went flat on the top of
the box. One finger at a time drew
up and slipped into the slot. Index,
fore, third, little. I put my thumb
in my palm and shoved. My hand
There were coins inside. I
scooped them up with two fingers
and held them fast with the other
two. Once I dropped a dime — not a
penny, milled edge — and I started
to reach for it. No, don't be greedy.
I knew I would probably lose my
hold on all the coins if I tried for
that one. I had all the rest. It felt
like about two dollars, or close to it.
Then I found the bill. A neatly
folded bill in the box. Somehow I
knew all along it would be there.
tried to read the numbers on the
bill with my fingertips, but I
couldn't. It had to be a one. Who
drops anything but a one into a
Skid Row collection box? But still
there were tourists, slummers.
They might leave a fifty or even a
hundred. A hundred!
Yes, it felt new, crisp. It had to
be a hundred. A single would be
creased or worn.
I pulled my hand out of the box.
I tried to pull my hand out of the
I knew what the trouble was, of
course. I was in a monkey trap.
The monkey reaches through the
hole for the bait, and when he gets
it in his hot little fist, he can't get
his hand out. He's too greedy to let
go, so he stays there, caught as se-
curely as if he were caged.
I was a man, not a monkey. I
knew why I couldn't get my hand
out. But I couldn't lose that money,
especially that century bill. Calm,
I ordered myself. Calm.
The box was fastened to the
vertical tongue-and-groove laths of
the woodwork, not the wall. It was
old lumber, stiffened by a hundred
layers of paint since 1908. The
paint was as thick and strong as the
boards. The box was fastened fast.
Six-inch spike nails, I guessed.
Calmly, I flung my whole weight
away from the wall. My wrist al-
most cracked, but there wasn't
even a bend in the box. Carefully,
I tried to jerk my fist straight up, to
pry off the top of the box. It was as
if the box had been carved out of
one solid piece of timber. It
wouldn't go up, down, left or right.
But I kept trying.
While keeping a lookout for Par-
tridge and somebody stepping out
of the kitchen for a pull on a
bottle, I spotted the clock for the
first time, a Western Union clock
high up at the back of the hall. Just
as I seen it for the first time, the
electricity wound the spring motor
inside like a chicken having its
The next time I glanced at the
clock, it said ten minutes had gone
by. My hand still wasn't free and
I hadn't budged the box.
"This," Brother Partridge said,
"is one of the most profound exper-
iences of my life."
My head hinged until it lined
my eyes up with Brother Partridge.
The pipe hung heavy in my pocket,
but he was too far from me.
"A vision of you at the box pro-
jected itself on the crest of my
soup," the preacher explained in
I nodded. "Swimming right in
there with the dead duck."
"Cold turkey," he corrected. "Are
you scoffing at a miracle?"
"People are always watching me,
Brother," I said. "So now they do
it even when they aren't around. I
should have known it would come
The pipe was suddenly a weight
I wanted off me. I would try rob-
bing a collection box, knowing posi-
tively that I would get caught, but
I wasn't dumb enough to murder.
Somebody, somewhere, would be
a witness to it. I had never got away
with anything in my life. I was too
smart to even try anything but the
"I may be able to help you,"
Brother Partridge said, "if you have
faith and a conscience."
"I've got something better than
a conscience," I told him.
ROTHER PARTRIDGE re-
garded me solemnly. "There
must be something special about
you, for your apprehension to come
through miraculous intervention.
But I can't imagine what."
"I always get apprehended some-
how, Brother," I said. "I'm pretty
"William Hagle." No sense lying.
I had been booked and printed be-
Partridge prodded me with his
bony fingers as if making sure I
was substantial. "Come. Let's sit
down, if you can remove your fist
from the money box."
I opened up my fingers and let
the coins ring inside the box and I
drew out my hand. The bill stuck
to the sweat on my fingers and slid
out along with the digits. A one, I
decided. I had got into trouble for
a grubby single. It wasn't any cen-
tury. I had been kidding myself.
I unfolded the note. Sure
enough, it wasn't a hundred-dollar
bill, but it was a twenty, and that
was almost the same thing to me.
I creased it and put it back into the
As long as it stalled off the cops,
I'd talk to Partridge.
We took a couple of camp chairs
and I told him the story of my life,
or most of it. It was hard work on
an empty stomach; I wished I'd
had some of that turkey soup. Then
again I was glad I hadn't. Some-
thing always happened to me when
I thought back over my life. The
The men filed out of the kitchen,
wiping their chins, and I went right
After some time Sister Partridge
bustled in and snapped on the over-
head lights and I kept talking. The
brother still hadn't used the phone
to call the cops.
"Remarkable," Partridge finally
said when I got so hoarse I had to
take a break. "One is almost — al-
most — reminded of Job. William,
you are being punished for some
great sin. Of that, I'm sure."
"Punished for a sin? But, Broth-
er, I've always had it like this, as
long as I can remember. What kind
of a sin could I have committed
when I was fresh out of my crib?
"William, all I can tell you is
that time means nothing in Heaven.
Do you deny the transmigration of
"Well," I said, "I've had no per-
"Of course you have, William!
Say you don't remember. Say you
don't want to remember. But don't
say you have no personal experi-
"And you think I'm being pun-
ished for something I did in a pre-
He looked at me in disbelief.
"What else could it be?"
"I don't know," I confessed. "I
certainly haven't done anything
that bad in this life."
"William, if you atone for this
sin, perhaps the horde of locusts
will lift from you."
It wasn't much of a chance, but
I was unused to having any at all.
I shook off the dizziness of it. "By
the Lord Harry, Brother, I'm going
to give it a try!" I cried.
"I believe you," Partridge said,
surprised at himself.
He ambled over to the money
box on the wall. He tapped the
bottom lightly and a box with no
top slid out of the slightly larger
box. He reached in, fished out the
bill and presented it to me.
"Perhaps this will help in your
atonement," he said.
I crumpled it into my pocket
fast. Not meaning to sound ungrate-
ful, I'm pretty sure he hadn't no-
ticed it was a twenty.
And then the bill seemed to lie
there, heavy, a lead weight It
would have been different if I had
managed to get it out of the box
myself. You know how it is.
Money you haven't earned
doesn't seem real to you.
r T 1 HERE was something I forgot
■*- to mention so far. During the
year between when I got out of the
reformatory and the one when I
tried to steal Brother Partridge's
money, I killed a man.
It was all an accident, but killing
somebody is reason enough to get
punished. It didn't have to be a sin
in some previous life, you see.
I had gotten my first job in too
long, stacking boxes at the freight
door of Baysinger's. The drivers un-
loaded the stuff, but they just
dumped it off the truck. An empty
rear end was all they wanted. The
freight boss told me to stack the
boxes inside, neat and not too close
I stacked boxes the first day. I
stacked more the second. The third
day I went outside with my balo-
ney and crackers. It was warm
enough even for November.
Two of them, dressed like Har-
vard seniors, caps and striped duf-
fer jackets, came up to the crate I
was dining off.
"Work inside, Jack?" the taller
"Yeah," I said, chewing.
"What do you do, Jack?" the fat-
ter one asked.
"Got a union card?"
I shook my head.
"No," I said. "I'm just helping
out during Christmas."
"You're a scab, buddy," Long-
legs said. "Don't you read the pa-
"I don't like comic strips," I said.
They sighed. I think they hated
to do it, but I was bucking the
Fats hit me high. Long-legs hit
me low. I blew cracker crumbs into
their faces. After that, I just let
them go. I know how to take a
beating. That's one thing I knew
Then lying there, bleeding to
myself, I heard them talking. I
heard noises like make an example
of him and do something perma-
nent and I squirmed away across
the rubbish like a polite mouse.
I made it around a corner of
brick and stood up, hurting my
knee on a piece of brown-splotched
pipe. There were noises on the
other angle of the corner and so I
tested if the pipe was loose and it
was. I closed my eyes and brought
the pipe up and then down.
It felt as if I connected, but I
was so numb, I wasn't sure until I
unscrewed my eyes.
There was a big man in a heavy
wool overcoat and gray homburg
spread on a damp centerfold from
the News. There was a pick-up
slip from the warehouse under the
fingers of one hand, and somebody
had beaten his brains out.
The police figured it was part of
some labor dispute, I guess, and
they never got to me.
I suppose I was to blame any-
way. If I hadn't been alive, if I
hadn't been there to get beaten up,
it wouldn't have happened. I could
see the point in making me suffer
for it. There was a lot to be said for
looking at it like that. But there
was nothing to be said for telling
Brother Partridge about the acci-
dent, or murder, or whatever had
happened that day.
^ EARCHING myself after I left
^ Brother Partridge, I finally
found a strip of gray adhesive tape
on my side, out of the fuzzy area.
Making the twenty the size of a
thick postage stamp, I peeled back
the tape and put the folded bill on
the white skin and smoothed the
There was only one place for me
to go now. I headed for the public
library. It was only about twenty
blocks, but not having had anything
to eat since the day before, it ener-
The downstairs washroom was
where I went first. There was no-
body there but an old guy talking
urgently to a kid with thick glasses,
and somebody building a fix in one
of the booths. I could see charred
matches dropping down on the
floor next to his tennis shoes, and
even a few grains of white stuff.
But he managed to hold still
enough to keep from spilling more
from the spoon*
I washed my hands and face,
smoothed my hair down, combing
it with my fingers. Going over my
suit with damp toweling got off a
lot of the dirt. I put my collar on
the outside of my jacket and
creased the wings with my thumb-
nail so it would look more like a
sports shirt. It didn't really. I still
looked like a bum, but sort of a
neat, non-objectionable bum.
The librarian at the main desk
looked sympathetically hostile, or
"I'd like to get into the stacks,
miss," I said, "and see some of the
"Which newspapers?" the old
girl asked stiffly.
I thought back. I couldn't re-
member the exact date. "Ones for
the first week in November last
"We have the Times microfilmed.
I would have to project them for
"I didn't want to see the Times"
I said, fast. "Don't you have any
newspapers on paper?" I didn't
want her to see what I wanted to
read up on.
"We have the News, bound, for
I nodded. "Thaf s the one I
wanted to see."
She sniffed and told me to fol-
low her* I didn't rate a cart to my
table, I guess, or else the bound
papers weren't supposed to come
out of the stacks.
The cases of books, row after
row, smelled good. Like old leather
and good pipe tobacco. I had been
here before. In this world, ir*s the
man with education who makes the
Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia. So
far I knew a lot about Mark
Antony, Atomic Energy, Boron,
Brussels, Catapults, Demons, and
I guess I had stopped to look
around at some of the titles, be-
cause the busy librarian said
sharply, "Follow me."
I heard my voice say, "A pleas-
ure. What about after work?"
I didn't say it, but I was used
to my voice independently saying
things. Her neck got to flaming, but
she walked stiffly ahead. She didn't
say anything. She must be awful
mad, I decided. But then I got the
idea she was flushed with pleasure.
I'm pretty ugly and I looked like
a bum, but I was young. You had
to grant me that.
She waved a hand at the rows of
bound News and left me alone with
them. I wasn't sure if I was al-
lowed to hunt up a table to lay the
books on or not, so I took the vol-
ume for last year and laid it on the
floor. That was the cleanest floor I
It didn't take me long to find the
story. The victim was a big man,
because the story was on the
second page of the Nov. 4 edition.
I started to tear the page out,
then only memorized the name and
home address. Somebody was sure
to see me and I couldn't risk
trouble just now.
I stuck the book back in line and
money. I had been reading the left ^y the side door.
went to a dry-cleaner, not the the pink bath towel evenly. I cut
cheapest place I knew, because
I wouldn't be safe with the change
from a twenty in that neighbor-
hood. My suit was cleaned while I
waited. I paid a little extra and had
it mended. Funny thing about a
suit — it's almost never completely
shot unless you just have it ripped
off you or burned up. It wasn't
exactly in style, but some rich
executives wore suits out of style
that they had paid a lot of money
for. I remembered Fredric March's
double-breasted in Executive Suite
while Walter Pidgeon and the rest
wore Ivy Leagues. Maybe I would
look like an eccentric executive.
I bought a new shirt, a good used
pair of shoes, and a dime pack of
single-edged razor blades. I didn't
have a razor, but anybody with
nerve can shave with a single-edge
blade and soap and water.
The clerk took my two bucks in
advance and I went up to my room.
I washed out my socks and un-
derwear, took a bath, shaved and
trimmed my hair and nails with
the razor blade. With some soap
on my finger, I scrubbed my teeth.
Finally I got dressed.
Everything was all right except
that I didn't have a tie. They had
them, a quarter a piece, where I got
the shoes. It was only six blocks —
I could go back. But I didn't want
to wait. I wanted to complete the
The razor blade sliced through
out a nice modern-style tie, nar-
row, with some horizontal stripes
down at the bottom. I made a tight,
thin knot. It looked pretty good.
I was ready to leave, so I started
for the door. I went back. I had
almost forgotten my luggage. The
box still had three unwrapped
blades in it I pocketed it. I hefted
the used blade, dulled by all the
work it had done. You can run
being economical into stinginess. I
tossed it into the wastebasket.
I had five hamburgers with, and
five cups of coffee. I couldn't finish
all of the French fries.
"Mac," I said to the fat counter-
man, who looked like all fat coun-
termen, "give me a Milwaukee
He stopped polishing the counter
in front of his friend. "Milwaukee,
Wisconsin, or Milwaukee, Ore-
He didn't argue.
It was cold and bitter. All beer is
bitter, no matter what they say on
TV. I like beer. I like the bitterness
It felt like another, but I checked
myself. I needed a clear head. I
thought about going back to the
hotel for some sleep; I still had the
key in my pocket (I wasn't trusting
it to any clerk). No, I had had
sleep on Thanksgiving, bracing up
for trying the lift at Brother Par-
tridge's. Let's see, it was daylight
outside again, so this was the day
after Thanksgiving. But it had only
been sixteen or twenty hours since
I had slept. That was enough.
I left the money on the counter
for the hamburgers with and coffee
and the beer. There was $7.68 left.
As I passed the counterman's
friend on his stool, my voice said,
"I think you're yellow."
He turned slowly, his jaw mov-
ing further away from his brain.
I winked. "It was just a bet for
me to say that to you. I won two
bucks. Half of it is yours." I held
out the bill to him.
His paw closed over the money
and punched me on the biceps.
Too hard. He winked back. "It's
I rubbed my shoulder, marching
off fast, and I counted my money.
With my luck, I might have given
the counterman's friend the five
instead of one of the singles. But I
hadn't. I now had $6.68 left.
"I still think you're yellow," my
It was my voice, but it didn't
come from me. There were no
words, no feeling of words in my
throat. It just came out of the air
the way it always did.
TTAROLD R. THOMPKINS ;
•"-■*■ 49, vice-president of Baysing-
er's, was found dead behind the
store last night. His skull had been
crushed by a vicious beating with
a heavy implement, Coroner Mc-
Clain announced in preliminary
verdict. Tompkins, who resided at
1467 Claremont, Edgeway, had
been active in seeking labor-man-
agement peace in the recent diffi-
I had read that a year before.
The car cards on the clanking sub-
way and the rumbling bus didn't
seem nearly so interesting to me.
Outside the van, a tasteful sign
announced the limits of the village
of Edgeway, and back inside, the
monsters of my boyhood went
bloomp at me.
I hadn't seen anything like them
The slimy, scaly beasts were
slithering over the newspaper hold-
ers, the ad card readers, the girl
watchers as the neat little carbon-
copy modern homes breezed past
I ignored the devils and concen-
trated on reading the withered,
washed-out political posters on the
telephone poles. My neck ached
from holding it so stiff, staring out
through the glass. More than that,
I could feel the jabber wocks star-
ing at me. You know how it is. You
can feel a stare with the back of
your neck and between your eyes.
They got one brush of a gaze out
The things abruptly started their
business, trying to act casually as if
they hadn't been waiting for me to
look at them at all. They had a
little human being of some sort.
It was the size of a small boy,
like the small boy who looked like
me that they used to destroy when
I was locked up with them in the
dark. Except this was a man, scaled
down to child's size. He had sort of
an ugly, worried, tired, stupid look
and he wore a shiny suit with a
piece of a welcome mat or some-
thing for a necktie. Yeah, it was
me. I really knew it all the time.
They began doing things to the
midget me. I didn't even lift an
eyebrow. They couldn't do any-
thing worse to the small man than
they had done to the young boy. It
was sort of nostalgic watching them,
but I really got bored with all that
violence and killing and killing the
same kill over and over. Like
watching the Saturday night string
of westerns in a bar.
The sunlight through the window
was yellow and hot. After a time, I
began to dose.
The shrieks woke me up.
For the first time, I could hear
the shrieks of the monster's victim
and listen to their obscene drool-
ings. For the very first time in my
life. Always before it had been all
pantomime, like Charlie Chaplin.
Now I heard the sounds of. it all.
They say it's a bad sign when
you start hearing voices.
I nearly panicked, but I held
myself in the seat and forced my-
self to be rational about it. My own
voice was always saying things
everybody could hear but which
I didn't say. It wasn't any worse to
be the only one who could hear
other things I never said. I was as
sane as I ever was. There was no
doubt about that.
But a new thought suddenly im-
pressed itself on me.
Whatever was punishing me for
my sin was determined that I turn
back before reaching 1467 Clare-
^PLRMNT," the driver an-
^ nounced, sending the doors
hissing open and the bus cranking
to a stop.
I walked through the gibbering
monsters, and passing the driver's
seat, I heard my voice say, "Don't
splatter me by starting up too soon,
The driver looked at me with
round eyes. "No, sir, I won't."
The monsters gave it up and
The bus didn't start until I was
halfway up the block of sandine
moderns and desk-size patios.
Number 1423 was different from
the other houses. It was on fire.
One of the most beautiful women
I've ever seen came running up to
me. What black hair, what red lips,
what sparkling eyes she had when
I finally got up that far! "Sir," she
said, "my baby brother is in there.
I'd be so grateful—" '
I grabbed for her. My hand went
right on through. I didn't try grab-
bing her again. This time, I had a
feeling I would feel her. I didn't
want to be that bad off.
I walked on, ignoring the flames
shooting out of 1423.
As I reached the patio of 1467,
the flames stopped. It was a
queer kind of break. No fadeout,
just a stoppage. I took a step back-
ward. No flames this time, but the
very worst and very biggest mon-
ster of them all. Coming suddenly
like that, it got to my spine and
stomach, even though I was pretty
used to them. I stepped away from
it and it was gone.
Number 1467 was different
from the other houses, and it wasn't
even on fire. It was on two lots, and
it had two picture windows, but
only one little porch and front door.
I guess even the well-to-do have a
hard time finding big houses and
good building sites and the right
neighborhood. The trouble is so
many people are well-to-do and
there just aren't enough old manses
to go around.
I strolled up the stucco path and
lifted the wrought-iron knocker,
which rang a bell.
The door opened and there was
a girl there. She wasn't much com-
pared to the one I put my hand
through. But she was all right-
brown hair, a nice face underneath
the current shades of cosmetics,
no figure for a stripper, but it would
"You the maid?" I inquired.
"I am Miss Tompkins," she said.
"Oh. Any relation to Harold J.
"My father. He died last year."
"Can I see your mother?"
"Mother died a few months after
"You'll do then."
I stepped inside. Miss Tompkins
seemed too surprised to protest.
"I'm William Hagle," I said. "I
want to help you."
"Mr. Hagle, whatever it is —
"Thaf s not it exactly," I told her.
"I just want to help you. I only
want to do whatever you want me
She stared at me, her eyes mov-
ing too quickly over my face. "I've
never even seen you before, have
I? Why do you want to help me?
"What's so damned hard to un-
derstand? I just want to help. I
don't have any money, but I can
work and give you my pay. You*
want me to clean up the basement,
tbp wrc*? Got any painting to be
done? Hell, I can even sew. Any-
thing — don't you understand — I'll
do anything for you."
THE girl was breathing too hard
now. "Mr. Hagle, if you're
hungry, I can find something — no,
I don't think there is anything. But
I can give you some money to — "
"Damn it, I don't want your
money! Here, I'll give you mine!" I
wadded up the $6.38 cents I had
left, plus one bus transfer, and put
it on the top of a little bookcase
next to the door. "I know it doesn't
mean anything to you, but it's
every penny I've got. Can't I do
anything for you? Empty the gar-
"We have a disposal," she said
"Scrub the floors."
"There's a polisher in the closet."
"Make the beds!" I yelled. "You
don't have a machine for that, do
The corners of Miss Tompkins'
eyes drew up and the corners of her
mouth drew down. She stayed like
that for a full second, then smiled a
strange smile. "You — you saw me
on the street." She was breathing
her words now, so softly that I
could only just understand them.
"You thought I was - stacked."
"To tell the truth, ma'am, you
"Well, sit down. Don't go away.
I'll just go into the next room — slip
into something comfortable—"
"Miss Tompkins!" I grabbed
hold of her. She felt real. I hoped
she was. "I want nothing from you.
Nothing! I only want to do some-
thing for you, anything for you.
I've got to help you, can't you un-
derstand? I KILLED YOUR
I hadn't meant to tell her that,
ing and clawing the way I knew
she would as soon as I said it. But
she stopped, stunned, as if I'd
slapped her out of hysterics, only
I'd never let go of her shoulders.
She hung then, her face empty,
repeating, "What? What?"
Finally she began laughing and
she pulled away from me so gently
and naturally that I had to let go.
She sank down and sat on top of
my money on the little bookcase.
She laughed some more into her
two open hands.
I stood there, not knowing what
to do with myself.
She looked up at me and
brushed away a few tears with her
fingertips. "You want to get me off
of your conscience, do you, Wil-
liam Hagle? God, that's a good
one." She reached out and took my
hand in hers. "Come along down
into the basement, William. I want
to show you something. Afterward,
if you want to — if you really want
to — you may kill me."
"Thanks," I said.
I couldn't think of anything else
I ^OWN in the basement, the ma-
-*-^ chinery looked complex, with
all sorts of thermostats and speed-
"Automatic stoker?" I asked.
"Time machine," she said.
"You don't mean a time machine
like H. G. Wells's," I said, to show
She screamed and began twist- her I wasn't ignorant.
"Not exactly like that, but close,"
she answered sadly. "This has been
the cause of all your trouble, Wil-
"Yes. This house and the ground
around it are the Primary Focus
area for the Hexers. The Hexers
have tormented and persecuted
you all your life. They got you
into trouble. They made you think
you were going crazy—"
"I never thought I was going
crazy!" I yelled at her.
"That must have made it worse,"
she said miserably.
I thought about it. "I suppose it
did. What are the Hexers? What —
for the sake of argument — have
they got against me?"
"The Hexers aren't human. I
suppose they are extraterrestrials.
No one ever told me. Maybe they
are a kind of human strain that
went different. I don't really know.
They want different things than we
do, but they can buy some of them
with money, so they can be hired.
People in the future hire them to
hex people in the past."
"Why would anybody up ahead
there with Buck Rogers want to
cause me trouble? I'm dead then,
"Yes, you must be. It's a long
time into the future. But, you see,
some of my relatives there want
to punish you for — it must be for
killing Father. They lost out on a
chain of inheritance because he
died When he did. They have
money now, but they are bitter
because they had to make it them-
selves. They can afford every
luxury — even the luxury of
I suppose when you keep seeing
monsters and hearing yourself say
things you didn't say, you can be-
lieve unusual things easier. I
believed Miss Tompkins.
"It was not murder," I said. "I
killed him by accident."
"No matter. They would hex you
if you had hit him with a car in a
fog or given him the flu by sneez-
ing in his face. I understand people
are hexed all the time for things
they never even knew they did.
People up there have a lot of leis-
ure, a lot of time to indulge their
every irritation or hate. I think it
must be decadent, the way Rome
"What do you— and the machine
—have to do with my hex?" I asked.
"This is the Primary Focus area,
I told you. It's how the Hexers get
into this time hypothesis. They
can't get back into this Primary
itself, but they can come and go
through the outer boundary. It's
hard to set up a Primary Focus —
takes a tremendous drain of power.
They broke through into the base-
ment of the old house before I was
born and Daddy was the first cus-
todian of the machine. He never
knew that he was helping avenge
his own death. They let that slip
later, after — it happened."
"Why did they come to you?
Why did you help them?"
She turned half away. "The cus-
todian is well paid. My relatives
preferred the salary to go to some-
one in the family, instead of an
outsider. Daddy accepted the offer
and I've carried on the job."
"Paid? You were paid?"
She brushed at her eyes. "Oh,
not in United States currency. But
— Daddy got to be president of the
store. It was set up so he could
make a fortune that they could in-
herit. All he left was his insurance,
and that went to mother. She died
a few months later and some of it
went to me and the rest to her
"You mean my life has been like
it has because some descendants of
yours in the future hate me for an
accident that deprived them of
^HE nodded enthusiastically.
^ "You understand! And because
I helped the Hexers they hired get
to you. I was afraid you wouldn't
believe me. Now" — she stopped
to exhale — "do you want to kill
"No, I don't want to kill you." I
walked over and squinted at the
machine. "Could / get into the fu-
ture with this thing?"
"I don't know how you work the
outer boundary. I think you need
something else. There's an internal
energy contact — you can talk to
Communications" She raced
through that. "You want to kill
them, don't you? The Hexers and
"I don't want to kill anybody,"
I told her patiently. "I feel dirty
just hearing how far some people
can go for revenge. I just want
them to let me alone. Why don't
they kill me and get it over with?"
"They haven't a license to kill.
Not yet. There's legislation going
"Listen," I said, listening to the
idea coming into my head, "listen.
These descendants of your moth-
er's relatives — they did inherit
money because your father died.
Maybe they feel grateful to me.
Maybe they would help me. Would
you help me try to talk to them?"
"Yes," Miss Tompkins said, and
she used a dial on the machine.
It was as simple as putting
through a phone call.
"We really understand your sit-
uation," Mr. Grimes-Tompkins
said. "But it would take quite a
bit to buy off the Hexers. How-
ever, we certainly appreciate the
killing you made for us."
"Couldn't you buy off the Hex-
ers, then, with some of the money
I brought to your side of the fam-
ily?" I asked.
"We don't appreciate it that
"What? You aren't going to pay
him back for killing my father?"
Miss Tompkins cried, outraged.
"Look," I said, "if you had some
money of mine, would you pay off
the Hexers for me? You do still
use money up there, don't you?"
"We certainly do, young man.
Just what did you have in mind?"
"If I gave you authorization now
to use any assets I have in your
time, would it be legal?"
"Declarations by temporal trans-
mission? Yes, of course. Routine
"Take any money I have and
use it to pay off the Hexers. Will
you do it?"
"I don't see why not, since our
ancestor seems to approve."
Miss Tompkins regarded me
solemnly. "What do you intend to
"Banks are out," I said, think-
ing hard. "They don't let inactive
accounts go on drawing interest
more than twenty years, or some-
thing like that. But government
bonds don't have to be converted
when they mature. One bond can
pile up a fantastic amount of inter-
est for them to collect."
"You have government bonds,
Miss Tompkins stood close to
me. "I have plenty of money, Wil-
liam. I'll give it to you. You can
buy bonds in my name."
"No. I'll get my own money."
"Shall I destroy the machine,
William? Of course they'll only
open another Focus—"
"No, you would just get your-
self hexed too."
"What can I do, William?" she
asked. "All along, ever since I was
a little girl, I've known I've been
helping to torture somebody. I
didn't even know your name, Wil-
liam, but I helped torture you—"
"Because I killed your father."
"—and I've got to make it up to
you. I'll give you everything, Wil-
"Sure," I said, "to take me off
your conscience. And if I take your
offer and you get hexed, what hap-
pens to my conscience? Do we go
around again — me working my tail
off to raise the dough to get you
unhexed, and you buying the Hex-
ers off me? Where would it stop?
We're even right now. Let's let it
go at that."
"But, William, if we've taken,
now we can give to each other."
She looked almost pretty then,
and I wanted her the way I'd al-
ways wanted women. But I knew
better. She wasn't going to get me
into any trouble.
"No, thanks. Good-by."
I walked away from her.
For the first time, I could see
what my life would be like if I
wasn't hexed. Now I could realize
that I knew how to do things right
if I was only let alone.
HP HE intern took the blood
-*• smear. He reeled off a long
string of questions about diseases I
wasn't allowed to have.
"No," I said, "and I haven't given
blood in the last thirty days."
He took my sample of blood and
I had to have eighteen dollars
and seventy-five cents. They paid
you twenty dollars a pint for blood
One government bond held for
centuries would pile up a fortune
in interest. The smallest bond you
can buy is twenty-five dollars face
value, and it costs eighteen seven-
If I had kept that twenty, I
would have had a buck and a quar-
ter change. But if I hadn't have
gotten cleaned up, the hospital
might not have accepted me as a
donor at all. They had had some
bad experiences from old bums dy-
ing from giving too often.
I only hoped I could force my-
self to let that bond go uncashed
through the rest of my life.
The intern returned, his small
mustache now pointing down. "Mr.
Hagle, I have some bad news for
you. Very bad. I hardly know how
to tell you, but — you've got
I nodded. "That means you
won't take my blood." Maybe it
also meant that I would never be
allowed to have eighteen dollars
and seventy-five cents in one lump
again as long as I lived.
"No," the intern finally managed.
"We can't accept your blood
I waved him off. "Isn't there
some fund to take care of lukemia
victims? Feed them, house them,
send them to Florida to soak up the
"Certainly there is such a fund,
and you may apply, Mr. Hagle."
"I'd certainly benefit a lot from
that fund. Doctor, humor me. Test
me again and see if I still have
He did. I didn't.
"I don't understand this," the
intern said, looking frightened.
"Transitory lukemia? It must be
a lab error."
"Will you buy my blood now?"
"I'm afraid as long as there is
some doubt — this must be some-
"I suppose it is,* I told him. "I
have all sorts of interesting symp-
"You do?" The intern was vital-
ly interested. "Feel free to tell me
all about them."
"I see and hear things."
"Do you believe in ESP?"
"IVe sometimes wondered."
"Test me as much as you like.
You'll find that in any game of
chance, I score consistently far be-
low the level of wins I should get
by the law of averages. I'm psioni-
cally subnormal. And that's just the
"This must be really new," the
intern said, eyes shining.
"It is," I assured him. "And lis-
ten, Doctor, you don't want to turn
something like me over to your
superiors, to leave me to the mer-
cies of the A.M.A. This can be big,
^HEY offered Hagle's Disease
■■■ to a lot of comedians, but final-
ly it was the new guy, Biff Kelsey,
that got it and made it his own. He
did a thirty-hour telethon for
Things really started to roll
then. Boston coughed up three hun-
dred thousand alone. The most
touching contribution came from
I plugged away on the employ-
and was made president of the
Foundation for the Treatment of
Hagle's Disease. Dr. Wise (the in-
tern ) was the director.
So far, I had been living soft at
Cedars, but I hadn't got my hands
on one red cent. I wanted to get
that government bond to buy off
the Hexers, but at the same time
it no longer seemed so urgent.
They seemed to have given up,
and were just sitting back waiting
for their bribe.
One morning three months later,
Doc Wise came worriedly into my
room at the hospital.
"I don't like these reports, Wil-
liam," he said. "They all say there's
nothing wrong with you."
"It comes and it goes," I said
casually. "You saw some of the
times when it came."
"Yes, but I'm having trouble
convincing the trustees you weren't
malingering. And, contrary to our
expectations, no one else in the
country seems to have developed
"Stop worrying, Doc. Read the
Foundation's charter. You have to
treat Hagle's Disease, which means
you can use that money to treat
any disease of mine while we draw
our salaries. I must have something
wrong with me."
Wise shook his head. "Nothing.
Not even dandruff or B.O. You are
the healthiest man I have ever
examined. If s unnatural."
Six months afterward, I had
been walking all night in the park,
in the rain. I hadn't had anything
to eat recently and I had fever and
I began sneezing. The money was
still in the bank — no, not in my
name — I couldn't touch it; Miss
Tompkins* descendants couldn't
touch it — just waiting for me to —
I started running toward the
I slammed my fists against
Wise's door. "Obed up, Wise. Id's
be, Hagle. I god a cold. Thafs a
disease, is'd it?"
Wise threw back the door. "What
did you say?"
"I said 'Open up, Wise. If s me,
Hagle. I've got a cold' . . . Never
mind, Wise, never mind."
UT you don't want to hear
about all that. You want to
know about what happened in the
relief office. There's not much to
I picked up the check from the
guy's desk and looked at it. Nine
fifty-seven to buy food for two
weeks. I griped that it wasn't
enough — not enough to keep alive
on and save eighteen seventy-five
clear in a lifetime.
The slob at the desk said, "What
have you got to complain about?
You got your health, don't you?"
That's when I slugged him and
smashed up the relief office, and
thafs why the four cops dragged
me here, and thafs why I'm lying
here on your couch telling you this
story, Dr. Schultz.
I had my health, sure, biit I fi-
nally figured out why. If you be-
lieve any of this, youVe thinking
that the Hexers must have laid off
me, which is why I'm healthy. I
thought so too, but how would that
Look, I tried every way I could
to raise eighteen seventy-five to
buy a government bond. I never
made it. I never made it because
I wasn't allowed to.
But I didn't know it because I'd
been euchred into the Foundation
for the Treatment of Hagle's Dis-
ease. Hundreds of thousands of
dollars, all earmarked for one pur-
pose only — treating my disease —
and I haven't got any!
Or maybe you're figuring the
way I did, that senility is a disease,
and all I have to do is wait for it
to creep up on me so I can get some
of that Foundation money. But the
Hexers have that fixed too, I'll bet.
I'm not sure, but I think I'm going
to live for centuries without a sick
day in my life. In other words, I'm
going to live that life out as poor
as I am right now!
If s a fantastic story, Doctor, but
you believe me, don't you? You do
believe every word of it You have
Because a persecution complex
is kind of a disease and I'd have to
be treated for it.
Now will you let me out of this
jacket so I can smoke a cigarette?
— JIM HARMON
By FREDERIK POHL
After the snow job this guy
handed us, what else should
we give him but the freeze?
Illustrated by WOOD
TANDY said: "Not tonight,
Howard. Why, I'm practi-
cally in bed already. See?"
And she flipped the vision switch
just for a second, long enough so
I could get a glimpse of a sheer
negligee and feathered slippers
and, well, naturally, I couldn't
quite believe that she really
wanted me to stay away. Nobody
had made her flip that switch.
I said: "Just for a minute, Tan-
dy. One drink. A little music, may-
be just one dance— "
"Howard, you're terrible/'
"No, dearest," I said, fast and
soft and close to the phone, "I'm
not terrible, I'm only very much
in love. Don't say no. Don't say
a word. Just close your eyes, and
in ten minutes I'll be there, and—"
And then, confound them, they
had to start that yapping. Bleep-
bleep on the phone, and then:
"Attention all citizens! Stand by
for orders! Your World Federal
Government has proclaimed a
state of unlimited emergency. All
heatpump power generators in ex-
cess of eight horsepower per—"
I slammed down the phone in
disgust. The lousy Feds! Yack-
yack on the phone lines at all
hours of the day and night, no
consideration for anybody. I was
disgusted, and then, when I got to
thinking, not so disgusted. Why
not go right over? She hadn't said
no; she hadn't had a chance.
So I got the Bug out, locked the
doors and set the thermostats, and
I set out.
TT isn't two miles to Tandy's
-■■ place. Five years ago, even,
I could make it in three or four
minutes; now it takes ten. I call
it a damned shame, though no one
else seems to care. But I've always
been more adventurous than most,
and more social-minded.
Jeffrey Otis wouldn't care about
things like that. Ittel du Bois
wouldn't even know — his idea is
to bury his nose in a drama-tape
when he goes out of the house, let
the Bug drive itself.
But not me. I like to drive, even
if you can't see anything and the
autopilot is perfectly reliable. Life
is for living, I say. Live it.
I don't pretend to understand
this scientific stuff either — leave
science to the people who like it
is another thing I say. But you
know how when you're in your
Bug and you've set the direc-
tion-finder for somebody's place,
there's this beepbeepbeepbeep
when you're going right and a
beepSQUAWK or a SQUAWK-
beep when you go off the track?
It has something to do with radio,
only not radio — that's out of the
question now, they say — but with
sort of telephoned messages
through the magma of the Earth's
core. Well, that's what it says in
the manual, and I know because
one day I glanced through it.
Anyway. Excuse me for getting
technical. But I was going along
toward Tandy's place, my mind
full of warm pleasures and antici-
pating, and suddenly the beep-
beepbeep stopped and there was a
sort of crystal chime and then a
voice: "Attention! Operation of
private vehicles is forbidden! Re-
turn to your home and listen to
telephoned orders every hour on
the hour!" And then the beepbeep-
beep again. Why, they'd even
learned how to jam the direction-
finder with their confounded yap-
It was very annoying and an-
grily I snapped the DF off. Dar-
ing? Yes, but I have to say that
I'm an excellent driver, wonder-
ful sense of direction, hardly need
the direction-finder in the first
place. And anyway we were close;
the thermal pointers in the nose
had already picked up Tandy's
Tandy opened the locks her-
self. "Howard," she said in soft
surprise, clutching the black film
of negligee. "You really came. Oh,
"My darling!" I breathed, reach-
ing out for her. But she dodged.
"No, Howard," she said severely,
"you mustn't do that. Sit down
for a moment. Have one little
drink. And then I'm going to have
to be terribly stubborn' and send
you right home, dear."
"Of course," I said, because that
was, after all, the rules of the
game. "Just one drink, certainly."
UT, damn it, she seemed to
mean it! She wasn't a bit hos-
pitable — I mean not really hos-
pitable. She seemed friendly
enough and she talked sweetly
Well, for example, she sat in
the positively-not chair.
I can tell you a lot about the
way Tandy furnished her place.
There's the wing chair by the fire,
and thaf s a bad sign because the
arms are slippery and there's only
room -for one actually sitting in
it. There's the love seat — speaks
for itself, doesn't it? And there's
the big sofa and, best of all, the
bearskin rug. But way at the other
end of the scale is this perfectly
straight armless cane-bottomed
thing, with a Ming vase on one
side of it and a shrub of some kind
or other rooted in a bowl on the
other, and that's where she sat.
I grumbled: "I shouldn't have
come at all."
"I said, uh, *I couldn't come any,
uh, faster.' I mean I came as fast
as I could."
"I know you did, you brute,"
she said roguishly, and stopped the
It poured us each a drink.
"Now don't dawdle," she said
primly. "I've got to get some sleep."
"To love," I said, and sipped the
top off the Martini.
"Don't do that," she warned.
I got up from the floor at her
feet and went back to another
"You," she said, "are a hard man
to handle, Howard dear." But she
Well, you can't win them all.
I finished my drink and figured
I would hang around about five
minutes just to show who was boss
and then get back in the Bug and
go home. It had been a wearing
day, hours and hours with the or-
chids, and then listening to all
nine Beethoven symphonies in a
row while I had played solitaire.
Frankly, I was a little sleepy after
a day like that and home was
where I wanted to be just then.
But I heard the annunciator bell
I stared at Tandy.
"My," she said prettily, "I won-
der who that can be?"
She shrugged. "Probably some-
one dull. I won't answer. Now do
be a good boy and—"
"Tandy! How could you?" My
mind raced; there was only one
conclusion. "Tandy, do you have
Ittel du Bois coming here tonight?
Don't lie to me!"
"Howard, what a terrible thing
to say. Ittel was last year."
"Tell me the truth!"
"I told you the truth!"
And she was angry. I'd hurt
her, no doubt of it.
"Then it must be Jeffrey. I
won't stand for it I won the toss
fair and square. Why can't he wait
until next year? It isn't decent I—"
She stood up, her blue eyes
smoldering. "Howard McGuiness,
you'd better go before you say
something I couldn't forgive."
I stood my ground. "Then who
"Oh, darn it!" she said, and
kicked viciously at the shrub by
her left foot. "See for yourself! An-
swer the door."
O I did. Now I know Ittel du
Bois's Bug and I know Jeff
Otis's. It wasn't either one of them.
The vehicle outside Tandy's door
parked next to mine was a very
strange-looking Bug indeed. For
one thing, it was only about eight
A bank of infra-red lamps
glowed on it, bathing it in heat.
The caked ice that forms in the
dead spots along the hull, behind
the treads and so on melted,
plopped off, turned into water and
ran into the drain grille. You know
how a Bug will crack and twang
when it's being warmed up? They
This one didn't.
It didn't make a sound. It was
so silent that I could hear the
snip-snip of Tandy's automatic
load adjuster, throwing another
heatpump into circuit to meet the
drain of the infra-red lamps. But
no sound from the Bug outside.
Also it didn't have caterpillar
treads. Also it had — well, you can
believe this or not — it had win-
"You see?" said Tandy, in a
voice colder than the black sky
full of. stars overhead. "Now would
you like to apologize to me?"
"I apologize," I said in a voice
that hardly got past my lips. "I—"
I stopped and swallowed. I begged,
"Please, Tandy, what is it?"
She lit a cigarette unsteadily.
"Well, I don't rightly know. I'm
kind of glad you're here, Howard,"
she confessed. "Maybe I shouldn't
have tried to get rid of you."
She glanced at the Bug. "All
right. I'll make it fast. I got a call
from this, uh, fellow. I couldn't un-
derstand him very well. But—"
She looked at me sidewise.
"I get it," I said. "You thought
he might be a mark."
"And you wouldn't cut me in!"
I cried angrily. "Tandy, that's
downright mean! When I found
old Buchmayr dead, didn't I cut
you in on looting his place? Didn't
I give you first pick of everything
you wanted — except heatpumps
and machine patterns, of course?"
"I know, dear," she said miser-
ably, "but — hush! He's coming
She was looking out the win-
dow. I looked too.
And then we looked at each
other. That fellow out of the
strange Bug, he was as strange as
his vehicle. He might be a mark
or he might not, but of one thing
I was pretty sure — he had huge
white eyes and a serpentine frill of
orange tendrils instead of hair.
At once all my lethargy and
"Tandy," I cried, "he isn't hu-
"I know," she whispered.
"But don't you know what this
means? He's an alien! He must
come from another planet- — per-
haps from another star. Tandy,
this is the most important thing
that ever happened to us."
I thought fast.
"Tell you what," I said. "You let
him in while I get around the side
shaft — it's defrosted."
I hurried. At the side door, I
stopped and looked at her affec-
"Dear Tandy," I said. "And you
thought this was just an ordinary
mark. You see? You need me."
And I was off, leaving her that
thought to chew on as she wel-
comed her visitor.
I TOOK a good long time in the
■■■ stranger's Bug. Whether he was
a human or a monster, I could rely
on Tandy to keep him occupied,
so I was very thorough, and didn't
rush, and came out with a splen-
did supply of what seemed to be
storage batteries. I couldn't quite
make them out, but I was sure
that power was in them somehow
or other, and if there was power,
the heatpump would find a way
to suck it out Those I took the
opportunity of tucking away in
my own Bug before I went back
in Tandy's place. No use bother-
ing her about them.
She was sitting in the wing chair
and the stranger was nowhere in
sight. I raised my brows. She
"Well," I said, "he was your
guest. I won't interfere."
Tandy was looking quiet, re-
laxed and happy. "What about the
"Oh, lots of things," I said.
"Plenty of metal! And food — a lot
of food, Tandy. Of course, we'll
have to go easy on it, till we find
out if we can digest it, but it smells
"Pumps?" she demanded.
"Funny," I said. "They don't
seem to use them." She scowled.
"Honestly, dearest! You can see
for yourself — everything I found
is piled right outside the door."
"What isn't in your Bug, you
She glowered a moment longer,
then smiled like the Sun bursting
through clouds on an old video
tape. "No matter, Howard," she
said tenderly, "we've got plenty.
Let's have another Martini."
"Of course." I waited and took
the glass. "To love," I toasted.
"And to crime. By the way, did
you talk to him first?"
"Talk to him?" she said crossly.
"Yap, yap, on and on. He was as
bad as the Feds."
I got up and idly walked across
the room to the light switch. "Did
he say anything interesting?"
"Not very. He spoke a terribly
poor grade of English, to begin
with. Said he learned it off old
radio broadcasts, of all things.
They float around forever out in
space, it seems."
I switched off the lights. "That
She nodded drowsily, got up to
refill her glass, and sat down again
in the love seat. "He was awfully
interested in the heatpumps," she
I put a tape on the player —
Tschaikowsky. Tandy is a fool for
violins. "He liked them?"
"Oh, in a way. He thought they
were clever. But dangerous, he
"Him and the Feds." I sat down
next to her. Click-click and our
individual body armor went on
standby alert. At the first hostile
move, it would block us off, set up
a force field — well, I think if s
called a force field. "The Feds are
always yapping about the pumps
too. Did I tell you? They're even
cutting in on the RDF channels."
"Oh, Howard! Thaf s roo much."
She sat up and got another drink
and sat, this time, on the wide,
low sofa. She giggled.
"What's the matter, dear?" I
asked, coming over beside her.
"He was so funny. Ya-ta-ta-ta,
ya-ta-ta-ta, all about how the heat-
pumps were ruining the world."
"Just like the Feds."
/^LICK-CLICK some more, as
^ I put my arm around her
"Just like," she agreed. "He said
it was evidently extremely high
technology that produced a device
that took heat out of its surround-
ing ambient environment, but had
we ever thought of what would
happen when all the heat was
"Crazy," I whispered into the
base of her throat.
"Absolutely. As though all the
heat could ever be gone! Absolute
zero, he called it — said we're only
eight or ten degrees from it now.
That's why the snow, he said." I
made a sound of polite disgust
"Yes, that's what he said. He said
it wasn't just snow, it was frozen
air — oxygen and nitrogen and all
those things. We've frozen the
Earth solid, he said, and now it's
so shiny that its libido is nearly
I sat up sharply, then relaxed.
"Not libido, dear. Albedo. That
means it's shiny."
"Thaf s what he said. He said
the Feds were right . . . Howard.
Howard, dear. Listen to me."
"Ssh," I murmured. "Did he say
"But Howard! Please! You're-"
She relaxed, and then in a mo-
ment giggled again. "Howard, wait.
I forgot to tell you the funniest
It was irritating, but I could af-
ford to be patient. "What was that,
"He didn't have any personal
I sat up. I couldn't help it.
"None at all! Unarmored as a
baby. So that proves he isn't hu-
man, doesn't it? I mean, if he
can't take the simplest care of him-
self, he's only a kind of animal,
I thought. "Well, I suppose so,"
"Good," she said, "because he's,
well, in the freezer. I didn't want
to waste him, Howard. And it isn't
as if he was human."
I thought for another second.
Well, why not? You get tired of
mushroom steaks, and since there
hasn't been any open sky for pas-
turing for centuries now, that's
about all there is. Now that I
thought back on it, he looked kind
of plump and appetizing at that.
And, in any case, that was a
problem for later on.
I reached out idly and touched
the button that controlled the last
light in the room, the electric fire-
"Oh," I said, pausing. "Where
did he come from?"
"Sorry," her muffled voice came.
"I forgot to ask."
¥ REACHED out thoughtfully
■■■ and found my glass. There was
a little bit left; I drained it off.
Funny that the creature should
bother to come down. In the old
days, yes, back when Earth was
full of people, you might expect
aliens to come rocketing down
from the stars and all that. But
he'd come all the way from —
well, from wherever — and for
what? Just to make a little soup
for the pot, to donate a little metal
and power. It was funny, in a
I couldn't help thinking that the
Feds would have liked to have
met him. Not only because he
agreed with them about the pumps
and so on, but because they're
interested in things like that.
They're very earnest types— that's
why they're issuing warnings and
so on. Of course, nobody pays any
Well, there was no sense bother-
ing my brain about that sort of
stuff, was there? If the heatpumps
were dangerous, nobody would
have bothered to invent them,
Of course not.
I set down my glass and
switched off the fireplace. Tandy
was still and warm beside me,
motionless but, believe me, by no
— FREDERIK POHL
The lead story in the next issue may surprise us as much as you. As of
even date, Robert Sheckley, whose ingenious "Prospector's Special" is on
display in this issue, has promised a novella (no title yet) for the February
issue (on sale toward the end of November, as previously explained, because
the book must come off sale before the cover date or be yanked from the
shelves by the newsdealers prematurely). The odds are better than good that
the Sheckley novella will 1) be delivered on time, for Sheckley warms chilled
editorial hearts by meeting his deadlines, and 2) will be a sparkler, for
Sheckley lights glazed editorial eyes by making his themes work with fresh-
ness and resourcefulness.
On the other hand, Sheckley speeds through New York traffic on a motor
scooter, is addicted to sailboats, the small kind that are the first to get storm
warnings, which he buoyantly ignores, and has other lethal hobbies that keep
taut editorial nerves jangling . . .
As a safeguard, therefore, we are scheduling a long novelet by Frederik
Pohl with this enchanting title: THE DAY THE ICICLE WORKS CLOSED. Sheckley
yes or Sheckley no, this story will run, and it is about a plant that manufactures
icicles, and for no capricious reason either, and what happens when the
factory shuts down makes an entertaining, mind-prodding yarn.
What happens to the rest of the issue is another story. The Sheckley and
the Pohl might possibly jam out other novelets — but allow more shorts. Or if
the Sheckley is delayed for one nervous reason or another, that would cut
down shorts — but allow more novelets.
Either way, it will be a good issue, especially in view of what Willy Ley
has done with ONE PLANET — ONE LANGUAGE, and the numerous equally
exciting sub-sections of his department, which incidentally includes a puzzle
that ought to enliven as many living rooms as his noted Australian Shoe Size
Riddle did, not long ago.
ALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank, areas — is open to fierce rebuttal
J. B. Lippincott Co., Phila., $3.50
POST-H-BOMB futures, once the
ground of the SF author, has since
been poached upon by mainstream
authors like Cloete, Shute and now
Frank. However, Frank also has
a pre-H-Bomb novel under his belt,
the excellent Forbidden Area.
He lives in Central Florida, mak-
ing foregone his choice of locale.
Survival in that region, though
hard, looks too easy. Also, his
prime assumption — radiation and
fallout are deadly only in or to the
immediate windward of impact
based on continuing investigation.
As a post-Bomb Swiss Family
Robinson-type adventure, the
story is fine, but my impression
is that Frank stopped too soon with
by Robert Sheckley. Avalon
Books, N.Y., $2.75
HAD SHECKLEY never written
Time Killer, the deservedly popu-
lar serial seen in these pages, the
above novel would have created
something of a stir. However, the
plot changes engineered by the
publisher have compelled Sheck-
ley to divorce himself completely
from the book. Motivations have
been altered and even the roles
played by the principle characters
have been tampered with, so that
the story is unrecognizable except
in its broadest outlines.
There is no doubt in my mind
that Sheckley has a right to ob-
ject: the yarn gained nothing and
lost much in its metamorphosis.
However, his superbly imaginative
story of a society with a for-real
Hereafter has far too much inter-
nal brilliance to be dimmed com-
STARSHIP by Brian Aldiss. Cri-
terion Books, N.Y., $3.50
prototype, Universe, set the pat-
tern for interstellar stories in
which several lifetimes are spent
in travel. Destination is forgotten,
superstition and myths prevail,
and culture is subordinated to
English author Aldiss's ship,
homebound from Procyon V, is a
derelict from some ancient catas-
trophe, though automatic functions
remain intact. Its survivors,
banded into antagonistic tribes
and hunting their food in hydro-
ponic jungles that choke the pas-
sageways, remind one of C. R.
Tanner's Tumithak oi the Corri-
dors of many years past.
The shock ending, though suffi-
ciently clued, is abrupt and leaves
so much unanswered that it must
lose a full star in rating. A pity-
it has a good deal else to add in
exploring this highly provocative
Rating: ***y 2
LOST IN SPACE by George O.
Smith. Avalon Books, N.Y., $2.75
PLOT-WISE and dialogue-wise,
Smith's 1954 opus is buffed to a
high luster. Action flows easily and
scenes change three ways with-
out hitch or jerk from the derelict
lifeboat with its three maroonees,
to the space fleet of 250 vessels
engaged in systematic search for
the above, to the flagship of an
overwhelmingly superior alien
The aliens, about to make their
first contact with Earth culture,
are secretly observing the rescue
operation, with belligerence or
peace in the balance, based on
their assay of humanity.
A topnotch space opera — right
up to the final half-dozen pages, at
which point Smith and logic part
STARMAN'S QUEST by Robert
Silverberg. Gnome Press, N.Y.,
• • • • * SHELF
SILVERBERG MIGHT have
called his book / Was A Three-
Hundred- Year-Old Teenager, for
this paradox is the basis of Alan
Donnell's quest: due to the vaga-
ries of the Fitzgerald Contraction,
spacers are pariahs, hated for their
seeming longevity. They are re-
stricted to ghettoes by the over-
crowded planet dwellers during
their infrequent planet-falls, and
subject to lifelong tedium and rou-
tine in space.
A faster-than-light drive is an
obvious must for interstellar travel
if an even deeper schism is to be
avoided. Donnell's quest leads him
to jump ship in an attempt to re-
discover the invention of a man a
millenium dead. Exciting story in-
gredients abound, but too many
happenstances and line-of-least-re-
sistance writing steal too much of
DAY OF THE GIANTS by Les-
ter del Rey. Avalon Books, N.Y.,
NORSE SAGAS are almost uni-
formly abrim with doom. With such
working material, writing a light
fantasy is a tough chore. Seeming-
ly aware of this, del Rey plunges
through his story in lickety-split
fashion — let gods and giants alike
fall where they may.
His yarn concerns Ragnarok,
the twilight of the gods, with gods
and giants fated to join final com-
bat with Earth as prize. To help
swing the balance, Yankee twins
of Norse descent are transported
to the abode of the gods, Asgard,
to augment their puny magic with
THE PATH OF UNREASON
by George O. Smith. Gnome Press,
Hicksville, N.Y., $3.00
SINCE A LOT of salt does not
taste better than enough salt, it
also follows that expanding Smith's
idea from a novelet does not, per
se, increase its interest. This is a
story that Smith evidently had a
lot .-of fun writing but that the
reader will find more difficult to
enjoy. The struggle of the physi-
cist hero, barely returned from the
brink of insanity, to convince his
psychiatrist that Earth is suffer-
ing under alien rule, is truly frus-
The reader is kept constant-
ly guessing, but much of Smith's
evidence and clues are so unfair
that he engenders a suspension of
willing belief. Too bad — Smith
was within hailing distance of a
good yarn, comparable to his High-
ways in Hiding.
VIRGIN PLANET by Poul An-
derson. Avalon Books, N.Y., $2.75
THOUGH MEANT to be a
light-hearted farce, Virgin Planet
belies its initial interest and winds
up taking its theme quite serious-
ly. The idea of a solitary male ex-
plorer landing on a true virgin
planet of true virgin human fe-
males, cast away for three hun-
dred years, promises some pretty
obvious fun. Anderson has it — as
well as going into the hows and
(All books in the Avalon SF
series have plastic dust jackets-
excellent and practical book sav-
SCAVENGERS IN SPACE by
Alan E. Nowse. David McKay
Co., Inc., N.Y., 2.75
DR. NOURSE'S juvenile is in the
very best tradition of youthful sci-
ence adventure. The action is plen-
tiful and quick-paced, the dialogue
authentic; the science unobtrusive
but well grounded; black is jet and
white is alabaster.
While mining in the Asteroid
Belt, an ex-employee of a ruthless
giant mining corporation has evi-
dently struck a bonanza and been
murdered, non-evidently, by com-
pany agents. The secret of the
strike's location dies with him,
though, and his twin sons and
former partner rocket into the
Belt for the dual purposes of re-
venge and re-discovery of the
claim. The nature of the find and
its secret location are equal sur-
Rating, for youngsters : ****
THE MARCH OF ARCHEOLO-
GY by C. W. Ceram. Alfred A.
Knopf, N.Y., $15.00
THIS BEAUTIFUL hunk of
book is as important an archeo-
logical find as any that fill its
Written by the author of the
fantastically successful Gods,
Graves & Scholars, it contains
much material from the former,
but differs entirely in its uncom-
plicated approach to the science
— as well as overflowing with
some of the most enthralling
photos and reproductions to be
seen between covers.
BRIGHTER THAN A THOU-
SAND SUNS by Robert Jungk.
Harcourt, Brace & Co.,N.Y., $5.00
SUBTITLED a personal history
of the atomic scientists, this is
more than that. Difficult reading
at times, it still is most reward-
ing to the student of recent atomic
history, even though this true ma-
terial reads almost like fiction.
THE SACRED MUSHROOM by
Andrija Puharich. Doubleday &
Co., Inc., N.Y^ $4.50
WHILE ENGAGED in psi re-
• • • • • SHELF
search, Dr. Puharich encountered
the myth of the sacred mushroom,
purportedly used by the ancient
Egyptians and others to send
the mind through time and space.
Dr. Puharich's deductions from
information supplied by an en-
tranced subject are not easy to fol-
Whether you will want to de-
pends on your interest in parapsy-
chology, its experimental tech-
niques and conclusions.
RAYS by Fred Reinfeld. Sterling
Publishing Co., Inc., N.Y., $3.50
VIBRATIONS, WAVES and par-
ticles qualify under the catch-all
"ray" category. SF has long out-
grown its Ray Period, so the ob-
jective is no longer subjective.
Reinfeld's illuminating text is com-
plemented by liberal photographic
JUNIOR EDUCATION CORNER
EXPLORING THE PLANETS
by Roy A. Gallant. Garden City
Books, N.Y., $2.95
THE COMMON denominator of
Gallant's books has been the utter
beauty of the illustrations plus a
forthright text. His present book
covers the Solar System planet by
planet, fact by fact, very clearly
THE TOOLS OF SCIENCE by
Irving Adler. The John Day Co.,
AS THE theoretical and practical
sciences become more compli-
cated, so do their tools. Often these
tools take fantastic shapes — wit-
ness the giant grid of the radio
telescope — and others would
never be thought of as tools by
the layman at all.
Adler handles this aspect of the
sciences in absorbing, understand-
THE EXPLORATION OF
TIME by R. C. N. Bowen. Philo-
sophical Library, N.Y., $6.00
OF ALL animals, only man is
consciously aware that there is
more to time than right now. How-
ever, the concept of geologic time
was greatly foreshortened only a
century back. Our longer view has
been due to dating methods: ra-
dioactivity, sedimentation, chemi-
cal, astrophysical, etc.
Amazingly, improved method-
ology has increased the age of
the Earth from mere millions to
upward of four billion years — and
decreased the age of man from a
theoretical one million to under
Time spent in this exploration
of time is time well spent.
— FLOYD C. GALE
BY ROBERT BLOCH
This was cornbaff, strictly from
Squaresville — the Mad Scientist
■ J '_
bit — but dig this cat's pajamas!
(Excerpt from Yardley University Daily
Bulletin, April 1, 1925) Professor Her-
bert Claymore, head of the Physics De-
partment, announced today that he is
leaving on a brief sabbatical. During his
absence, Professor Claymore's classes
will be conducted by Dr. Potter.
T 14 »
T was quarter past eight Mar-
tinis in the little bar across the
street and just down the
block from Television City. This
was subjective time, of course, but
then Don Freeman always ran on
subjective time, and didn't every-
body, when you came right down
Right down to eight Martinis,
Don didn't know, but he was
willing to argue the point with all
And the big trouble right now
was that there weren't any comers.
Apparently Rosalie wasn't going to
show up after all, and nobody else
Illustrated by FINLAY
f c» r ,°C
" °OoOo J
> o Of>°
in this neon-lighted nothing was
worth talking to. In just a little
while, Don realized, it was going to
get very drunk in here. And he'd
wind up talking to the bartender
That was bad. But going home
would be still worse. Besides, you
can't go home again. Thomas Wolfe
had said that, and it was a pretty
perceptive remark, coming from a
guy who hadn't even been married.
Don drained his drink and ex-
tended the empty glass. "Alms, for
the love of Allah," he said.
The bartender did his duty.
Somebody nudged Don's shoul-
der and stepped on his foot, hard.
"Be my guest," Don muttered,
but moved down to the end of the
bar. It was crowded in here — you
couldn't hear yourself drink. Of
course, that was the one great ad-
vantage, wasn't it? You also
couldn't hear yourself think. And
if you pressed your luck (and your
drinks), after a time you couldn't
feel yourself think, either— to think
about Rosalie and the house and
the job without feeling any pain or
any remorse. Or not to think
about them at all.
And the time was now, or at
least only a Martini or two away.
Soon he'd be able to forget that
Rosalie was only a two-bit chirp
who'd fluttered into his cage hop-
ing to find a perch on one of the
agency's shows. He'd forget about
going home, too — going home to
Beverly and Pat and Michael. Not
that there was anything wrong with
them, really. It was just that every
second guy his age seemed to be
married to a girl named Beverly
(or Shirley, or Susan) and they all
had two kids named Pat and
A S for forgetting the job, that
**■ was the real bonus deal. Fun-
ny how he'd wanted it once — full
credit listing as executive producer
on Playlights. But now that he was
boss man, it was just another head-
ache; fighting the client, fighting
the network, fighting the talent and
the no-talent they sent him, fight-
ing the hacks who kept on sending
him the same three lousy scripts,
over and over again.
There was the one about the girl
recovering from a nervous break-
down who gets into a bind where
she thinks she's committed a mur-
der — only her doctor uncovers the
real killer, and so they get married.
There was the one about the pilot
or the racer or the gunfighter who
loses his nerve until the chips are
down, and then he comes through.
And there was the one about the
young guy who has to choose be-
tween crass commercialism or per-
sonal integrity, and guess what he
Don hated this last script worst
of all. Maybe it was because he
lived it. And his blonde wife hadn't
made the big renunciation speech
about preferring financial poverty
to spiritual poverty, and he hadn't
played the climactic scene where
he was supposed to walk out on the
boss and turn to honest creative
So now he was a big man, a real
live producer and everything, and
he was entitled to sit in a noisy bar
on his night off and order another
He held out his glass to the bar-
tender once again. "Cloud Nine," he
Again he felt himself being
shoved out of the way. Half of Tele-
vision City was in here tonight —
production people, musicians, agen-
cy men, even a gaggle of actors in
full makeup for night dress re-
hearsals. If he wanted to, he could
find plenty of people to talk to. But
what was the use? They were here
for the same reason he was here,
most of them; they had their own
troubles. Some day he'd write a
story about the TV industry and
its eventual collapse due to inter-
nal tensions. The Fall of the House
But not tonight. Not right now.
Because here was the drink, and
maybe he'd better find himself a
booth in back where he could nurse
it without spilling the life-giving
fluid all over a twenty-dollar Sulka
Don spotted the empty in back,
floated over to it, slid in. He was al-
ready seated when he realized the
booth wasn't empty. There was an
elderly man sitting across from
him, nursing a beer.
"Sorry," Don said. "I didn't no-
"Quite all right," the elderly man
told him. "I don't mind company."
Don eyed him, doing a quick job
HP HE man was in his late fifties
■*■ and looked a bit like Parker
Fennelly; one of those New Eng-
land characters. It wasn't a makeup
job either, although he was ob-
viously an actor escaped from re-
hearsal, because he was wearing a
costume. He had on a black double-
breasted suit with wide lapels; a
celluloid collar rode above his
white shirt; a string tie twined with
the ribbon of his pince-nez.
"The Old Professor, eh?" Don
The man raised his eyebrows.
"But that's remarkable," he said.
"How on Eaith did you recognize
"Simple." Don tapped his glass.
"In vino Veritas" He leaned for-
ward. "Thaf s the motto of MGM,
The man looked puzzled.
"Don't mind me," Don told him.
I've just come from my meteorolo-
gist and he tells me I'm a little un-
der the weather."
"But you did recognize me—"
"Of course. How could I possibly
forget old — old — "
"Sure! Herb Claymore, as I live
and breed! The last of the big-time
spenders! What are you doing here
- the Mad Scientist bit?"
The man lifted his beer glass.
"Please. Not so loud." He drank
slowly, then looked up. "But how
could you know? I mean, you must
have been a mere child when you
saw me. How old are you now,
might I ask?"
"Thirty-four," Don told him.
"Then it's utterly impossible.
You wouldn't even have been
"I was born, all right," Don said.
"I can show you my navel to prove
"Isn't everybody? What did you
come here for?"
"Merely to study."
"Getting up on your lines, eh?
Well, don't let me stop you. I'm
about ready to go, anyway."
"No, please stay. I was hoping to
find someone to talk to. And you
intrigue me. I mean, I didn't ex-
pect anyone to recognize me."
"Not recognize Herb Claymore,
the man who rocked the scientific
world with his achievements! They
mocked you, ridiculed you, laughed
you out of court. But were you dis-
couraged? No! You forged ahead,
pushing back the boundaries of dis-
covery past Preparation H, into
Preparation I, even Prepara-
"Just who are you, sir?"
"Don Freeman is the name. Or
as I put it to the young ladies of
my acquaintance, Don Freeman, at
"It isn't familiar. And yet you
seem to know."
"I do. I do."
"Is it because of my clothing?"
■ AON nodded. "That Hoover col-
*-^ lar would give anybody away."
"Hoover collar?" The man
paused. "Ah, yes, Herbert Hoover,
the chap who headed Belgian Re-
lief during the War."
"President Hoover," Don cor-
"Not any more. But back in
"Sorry. That was after my time."
"Four years. I left in '25."
"Did you now? And what else
"Why, everything! I just arrived,
and I must confess the changes are
more startling than I'd anticipated.
The very ground on which the
university stood is now occupied
by this television installation,
"Come off it, Claymore. You're
laying a bomb."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Very unfunny. We are not
"I assure you, I'm quite serious."
Don focused on him briefly.
"This isn't a rib? You aren't a fugi-
tive from the Guild?"
"I am not a fugitive in any sense
of the word, sir. I am a visitor."
"You, Herbert Claymore, came
here in a time machine from the
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
Don sighed slowly. "Then I, Don
Freeman, need another drink. In a
manner of speaking, God, yes!"
He waved to the bartender.
"The same?" the bartender in-
"No. Switch me to a Miltown
Special." He peered at his com-
panion. "How about you?"
"What is a Miltown Special?"
"It's just like an ordinary Mar-
tini, only there's a tranquilizer in
"Come on. I'll bet you couldn't
get one back where you came from.
Why, they still had Prohibition,
"Indeed, yes." Claymore looked
up at the bartender. "The same."
The bartender left.
"No kidding," Don muttered.
"From 1925, eh? Just like that."
"Not 'just like that/ as you put it.
I spent eighteen years perfecting
the modus operandi. Steinmetz and
Edison gave me the courtesy of a
hearing, but nobody else was inter-
ested in my work."
"Not even Einstein?"
"You refer to Albert Einstein,
the German mathematician? I
never met the gentleman. You see,
I haven't traveled abroad."
r |^HE bartender set their drinks
■■■ before them and Don signed
"You're serious about this gag,
huh?" said Don. "Time traveling.
What a ball! Wh^d you come here,
of all places?"
"I thought the university was
still in existence," Claymore ex-
plained. "Now I learn it disap-
peared during the — ah — Depres-
sion, I believe they called it."
"Depression. I'm an authority on
Depressions, particularly my own,"
Don said. "Depressions, ruts,
graves. Deep stuff."
"But this seems a wonderful era."
"Is it? Look, I'll swap you even.
You stay here, I go back to 1925.
As long as we're kicking the rou-
tine around for laughs, I mean."
"It wouldn't be fair," Claymore
told him. "That was a barbaric era."
"I can see you haven't read the
papers," Don answered. "Maybe
they don't have newsboys at the
"Sir, I must ask you to—"
"All right, no offense. But any-
one who likes the way things are
today must be crazy. Just look at
the situation— cold war, union scan-
dals, fallout, conformity, space
race, alphabet bombs, why Johnny
can't read, security, censorship, an-
ti-segregation troubles. Ifs mur-
"I fail to see that if s any worse
than what I left behind me" said
Claymore. "In 1925 we had the
Bolshevik menace, the Teapot
Dome scandal, and bootlegging. As
for censorship — what about Prohi-
bition? What about this law down
in Tennessee forbidding the teach-
ing of evolution in the schools? An-
ti-segregation troubles? Haven't
you heard about lynching? And as
for murder, our papers are full of
"Aw right awready," Don said.
"So let's play the flip side. Have
you been around long enough to
notice rock-'n'-roll, Presley, the
tail-fin cars, the lousy ads, the
crummy movies? Will Success
Spoil Frankenstein's Monster —
now I ask you!"
Claymore sipped his drink. "I've
heard your rock-'n'-roll, as you call
it, and your Mr. Presley. But have
you ever heard voh-doh-dee-oh-doh
songs, or Yes, We Have No Bana-
nas? Have you ever tried to drive
a Model T over a corduroy road
during a rainstorm? Do your adver-
tising tycoons ever ask the immor-
tal question, Why Wear a Truss?
And as for motion pictures, I sub-
mit the epic productions starring
Mae Murray, Gilda Gray, and the
cast-of-ten-thousand dramas of
Cecil B. de Mille." He smiled. "At
least you enjoy the benefit of mod-
"Sure. Air-conditioning, tele-
vision, supermarkets, automatic
washers. Also guided missiles, and
the deadliest weapon of all, the in-
"Which we also had."
DON drank around his olive. "So
it's a Mexican standoff. But
let's consider the really important
things. Like the crowded housing
conditions that ruin our metropoli-
tan areas, and the gray flannel
strait jackets we wear, and the
women we love — those big-busted,
women we love — those big-
busted, bleached-blonde, bird-
"Very well." Claymore smiled.
"I'll match today's housing with
1925 tenements. Did you know
that only half of the homes boasted
bathtubs, and less than half had
inside plumbing? I needn't say
anything about our atrociously un-
comfortable furniture. And as for
clothing, I needn't say anything
about that, either. Just look at what
I'm wearing as compared to your
"Never mind the small talk,"
Don interrupted. "Lefs get back to
fundamentals. Namely, sex."
"All right. You paint a rather
alluring picture of the feminine
ideal. In its place I offer you the
Flapper — thin, flat-chested, neu-
rotically shrill and neurotically
slangy, gin-drinking, affected—"
"Okay, I get the message," Don
cut in. "But as long as we're play-
ing the game, why do we have to
limit ourselves to my today and
your yesterday? If both the past
and the present are so intolerable,
why can't we hop into your merry
not-so-Oldsmobile and take a joy-
ride into the future ?"
"I did," Claymore said.
"I said I did." He drained his
glass. "This is my second stop, you
might say. My first was to a time
approximately thirty-five years
"Why didn't you stay there?
Don't tell me things were just as
"Judge for yourself. No Com-
munist scare any more."
"It's the Conservatives they're
afraid of. Consies, they call them.
Advocates of go-slowism in govern-
ment and business and interna-
tional relations. Things need to be
done. They must be done. Result —
suppression of free speech, general
censorship, spy hunts. Then there's
the plutonium scandal to consider,
and the sub-teen delinquency prob-
lem, and the druglegging. I don't
think I'll mention their popular
songs, or what has happened to en-
tertainment media. Dimensional
TV can be pretty overwhelming,
and of course advertising has kept
pace. As for comfort — you'd never
imagine the rigors and distress of
a rocket flight to the Moon."
"And the women?" asked Don
CLAYMORE made an ellipse
with his hands. "Lovely. Aver-
age weight, two hundred pounds.
They're known as Queen-sized
dolls. Quite aggressive, of course,
as is only natural under a matriar-
chy. As you can perhaps detect
even from the trends of today, they
control virtually all of the corpor-
ations and business enterprises, to-
gether with entertainment media
"Then what's the answer?" Don
protested. "You mean you cant
beat the game? You can't get away
from it, wherever you go?"
"You can't get away from your-
self," Claymore declared. "Thafs
the only answer I've learned. How
you live, in any age, is up to you.
The adjustments you make with
your own environment."
"But that's corny," said Don.
"You mean horse feathers?"
Don nodded. "I suppose you in-
tend to go back to 1925 and take
up just where you left off?"
'Why not? I've learned what I
wanted to learn. And if you have
problems, I advise you to do the
same. Accept reality."
"That's a lot of-" Don hesitated.
Suddenly he banged on the table.
"No, it isn't! You're right, by God!
Accept reality, thafs the answer.
Now, look. You claim you actually
came here in a time machine. Do
you understand what this means?
Why, it's a multi-million-dollar
proposition from word one!"
He hunched forward. "Look, let's
you and I get together, equal part-
nership. I'll handle the whole deal,
do all the spadework. In two weeks
we'll blast everything else off the
map. I can get you the biggest pub-
licity campaign you ever heard of
— spreads in every newspaper and
magazine in the country, your
choice of network time. The adver-
tising tieup is so sweet, I don't even
have to talk about it. Man from
the past here today — in person!
You'll hit all the big shows! Law-
rence Welk, Steve Allen, Person to
Person. What an endorsement job
you can do on products! Shove you
out next to a 1925 icebox and let
you compare it with a new freezer,
let you stand up there and break a
few lousy Caruso records after you
listen to the latest Fats Domino
album. Get the pitch? And we'll
ghost a daily column for you, the
homespun philosophy bit. You're
going to be big, bigger than Godfrey
ever was at his peak, bigger than—"
"Sorry.'' Claymore stood up. "I
meant what I said. I'm going back
where I belong."
"Now wait a minute! This kind
of opportunity only comes once in
a lifetime. And there's no time like
"For you, perhaps. For me,
there's no time like the past."
"But you said yourself it stinks."
"I can adjust. And that's what
I'm telling you now— adjust to your
own time, your own circumstances."
Don shook his head, gazing into
his empty glass. When he looked up
again, Claymore was gone.
// he'd ever been there.
Hell, maybe it was just the
SURE, it was the drinkie. Time
travel was wacky. And so was
the cornball philosophy. Make the
best of things as they are. In other
words, his subconscious was telling
him to forget Rosalie, forget the rat
race, go home to the little woman
and the kids. A real lousy script
ending. Well, he wouldn't buy it.
He didn't have to buy it. He
could sell it.
Sure. That was the answer. Little
old subconscious working away all
the time, still alive and breathing
through a snorkel-tube under the
ten Martinis. It had just given him
a great plot. Make a fine show.
There's this old pappy-guy from
the past, see? He invents this time
machine gizmo and comes to the
present day. At first he likes it and
becomes a big celebrity, but after
a while he gets so he can't stand all
the phony routines. Finally they're
going to put him on television, to
make a big speech to the nation —
sort of a Will Rogers bit — and a
bunch of politicians have him in a
bind to endorse their lousy candi-
date. Only he gets up and double-
crosses them by denouncing the
whole act. Tells the people to re-
turn to the old rugged individual-
ism, the homely virtues, all that
Why, it was a natural, thafs
what it was! A natural!
Don fumbled around in his
pocket for his notebook. Better get
this down quick before he forgot.
Tomorrow he could give it to a
couple of the staff boys. All they'd
have to do would be to run it
through the typewriter — maybe
he'd give them a third of the deal,
but he'd keep the writing credit.
No Time Like The Present. A
great title. A great idea. And a great
little thought, too.
A man has to make the best of
what he's got.
Don started to scribble. He knew
where he was and what he was do-
ing, and right now he wouldn't
trade places with anyone in the
world. Anywhere, any time.
(Excerpt from Yardley Univerity Daily
Bulletin, April 5, 1925) Professor Her-
bert Claymore, head of the Physics De-
partment, resumed his duties today after
a brief sabbatical.
BY ROBERT BLOCII
We have on hand, in condition that the mint might well envy, these
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DICTATOR desires employment,
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Being a live-wire political scientist, he
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BY A. J. OFFUTT
Illustrated by WOOD
THE hotel clerk shook his
head obstinately. "I'm sor-
ry, sir. Mr. Blacksword is
an honored guest, a friend of the
management. In view of the cir-
cumstances surrounding—" he hesi-
tated — "the termination of his
recent position, and the enmity to-
ward him from several sources, I
am afraid we must refuse— "
The little man scrawled on a
sheet of hotel stationery. "Would
you please have this sent up to Mr.
Blacksword? He'll understand, I
The clerk regarded the paper
dubiously. "Just 'Box 91?"
The little man nodded.
The clerk's eyes went over the
little man's shoulder and he turned.
Two men stood a couple of feet
behind him. They were big fellows,
both wearing guns. Union body-
One took the piece of stationery.
I'll take this up to Mr. Blacksword
myself. You will please remain
The little man bowed and the
fellow strode to the elevator. His
companion stood very still, his eyes
on the little man.
"You needn't stare," the little
man said. "I won't run away. I
also haven't any bombs, guns, poi-
sons, or whatever. I assume you
have a permit for your gun? May I
The fellow reached inside his
jacket and handed the little man
a leather case.
"Ummm . . . Protectors Union,
Local 110. Assigned to Mr. G. P.
Blacksword. Thank you." The little
man handed back the credentials
and turned away, ignoring the
The light on the house phone
winked and the clerk flipped it on.
"Blacksword talking. Frisk him
and send him up."
"All right, Mr. Blacksword," said
The little man smiled angelical-
ly and raised his arms to shoulder
level. The protector patted him
"Clean," he said, and the little
man took the elevator up.
The bodyguard went with him.
They met the second protector in
the corridor and they flanked him
as he approached the door ' to
Blacksword's room. They were
duly scanned by winking lights
and the door opened.
G. Paul Blacksword sat in a
chair smoking a cigar. "Come in,"
he said around it, and the little
man went in.
Blacksword touched the stud on
the arm of the chair and the door
closed. The little man turned and
saw that the protectors had not
"Alone?" he asked.
"I'm not a psycho," Blacksword
told him. "Just cautious." He
grinned around the cigar. "You
know who I am," he pointed out,
"so Fm one play behind."
"Keplar. A. J. Keplar."
Blacksword inclined his head
without rising. "Representing?"
Blacksword raised his brows.
"Troy!" He turned his head to one
side with a twist of his mouth.
"Well! Please sit down, Mr. Kep-
lar. You'll pardon me for not ris-
ing . . . I'm sure you're aware I
have a bad leg."
f T , HE man generally referred to
■■- as the Black Sword blew white
clouds of cigar smoke at the ceiling.
"How is it that Troy finds herself
so suddenly in need of a dictator,
"People don't call me mister,"
Blacksword interrupted. "Just
Blacksword. Some commentator
had a brainstorm once and my
name became two words. It has a
lovely romantic ring which the
news services like. Pardon me for
interrupting, but as long as I've
done so, will you join me in a
"I think not, Mr. — pardon me
— Blacksword. But please feel free
to ha^e one yourself."
Blacksword grinned. His finger
had already dialed a scotch-on-the-
rocks. The servo began making
noises and the glass popped out on
the tray. Blacksword picked it up
'Troy has been a dictatorship
for thirty-one years, Blacksword,"
said Keplar. "For the last seven-
teen years, it was under Colonel
Hines, who seized power in the
conventional manner, a military
coup. As you may be aware from
the newscasts, he died very sud-
denly two weeks ago. The council
finds that no man on Troy is cap-
able of taking his place. So we
placed our ad."
"Died very suddenly, hm? How
Keplar shrugged. "Rather an un-
romantic end for a man of Hines*
stature, I'm afraid. He suffered a
"I see. Proceed."
"That about sums it up, sir. After
casting about for two weeks, we of
the council found no acceptable
successor. It goes without saying
that there were numerous candi-
dates. One, Major General Farris,
attempted to seize power. He was
forestalled by the council and sub-
sequently murdered by his own
"The council stopped him, you
The little man nodded. "Accord-
ing to TAI law, a dictatorship hav-
ing a secondary control council,
when without a dictator, is in the
hands of the council until a replace-
ment is found for the dictator."
Blacksword nodded and sipped
noisily at his scotch.
"We decided to advertise," Kep-
lar went on. "When your ad coinci-
dentally appeared at the same
time, we were curious and wrote.
When we received your rather —
uh — laconic reply, we decided to
take the chance of contacting you.
We had requested references, of
course, but naturally we are famil-
iar with your background."
"Thank you," said Blacksword.
"Recognition is very flattering, es-
pecially when one finds oneself out
of a job."
D LACKSWORD sipped scotch,
-■-* puffed cloudily on the cigar,
and regarded Keplar. "But you're
a damned liar, Keplar. I happen to
know the full story. Item: Troy is
on the brink of war. Item: The
council felt that this Major Gen-
eral Farris would make a better
commander in wartime than Hines.
So you murdered Hines. Or had
him murdered. When Major Gen-
eral Farris tried to take command,
he was killed by the army, which
remained loyal to Hines. Item:
You want me very badly and
placed your ad immediately after
you learned of mine.
"Naturally, the true circum-
stances are not widely known,"
Blacksword went on. "The people
of Troy, for instance, aren't aware
of the illegal intervention of the
Trojan Council. For your informa-
tion, you were rather sloppy, and
I'm sure TAI shares my knowl-
edge. But they are inclined not to
take action, provided the situation
is cleared up satisfactorily. They
wouldn't accomplish anything by
arresting the council en masse. I'm
not sure of this, of course. I have
little dealings with Terra Alta Im-
perata. I'm merely assuming their
agents are nearly as competent as
mine." He smiled lazily. "Although
not as well paid.
"Come, Keplar," Blacksword
concluded. "You didn't think Fd
swallow your tale, did you? Hell's
bells, I have spies and sources that
make your council and its machi-
nations look like a Boy Scout
Blacksword stuck the cigar back
in his mouth, raised one eyebrow
in the characteristic mannerism
witnessed by trillions on the video.
He glared amusedly at the little
man from Troy.
Keplar sighed and spread his
hands. "A test, of course. We de-
liberately concocted the story I
told you. If you were the man we
wanted, we were sure you would
know it to be a fabrication."
"You're still lying!" said Black-
sword. "Smoothly, though, and my
compliments for that. I admire a
man who thinks on his feet — a
prime requisite for salesmen, dic-
tators and diplomats."
Blacksword regarded the ceiling
reminiscently. "As you no doubt
know, I was a salesman when I
first went to Alsace. A twenty-
thousand-a-year salesman. I was
good at thinking on my feet Read-
ing and studying were my hobby —
I can quote you chapter and verse
of Napoleon and Caesar and Lee
and Arthenburg. By being a good
salesman and thinking on my feet
and with the aid of my hobby, I
took over Alsace when they de-
cided to try a dictatorship. I ruled
as absolute dictator for seven years.
Then the Alsacians decided on a
democracy — the idiots! — and, ac-
cording to TAI law, I resigned. I
left the planet. Unfortunately some
fool fanatic took a shot at me. So
at present I'm not only out of a job,
I'm out one good leg."
Blacksword looked back at Kep-
lar, puffed and grinned. "My apolo-
gies. I hadn't intended to give a
personal history. It's natural
enough, I suppose. A man can't be
a dictator — or even a good sales-
man — without being something of
an egotist." He looked squarely in-
to Keplar's eyes. "Just as he can't
be a diplomat without being an ex-
pert liar. I think you'll admit the
truth of both statements, Keplar.
Your story was no test. You under-
estimated me. You thought I might
not want to talk about Troy if I
knew what really happened to your
last ruler. And naturally you don't
want the story to get out If some-
one — someone, Keplar — men-
tioned publicly that Hines was as-
sassinated by agents of the Trojan
Council, TAI would have to make
use of its knowledge and prose-
The ex-dictator of the planet
Alsace leaned forward and pointed
with his cigar. "I think we fully
understand each other now. Shall
we discuss terms?"
Keplar sighed. 'Tret's," he said.
r W^ HE major picked up the report.
■*■ It was stamped "Terra Alta
Imperata: TOP SECRET," and
sealed. He poked the packet into
an unsealer, waited for the fool-
proof seal to open, and took out
the report marked "troy: black-
Page one summed up the recent
death of Troy's dictator, the unsuc-
cessful attempt by Farris to gain
control, and Farris* murder by the
army. There was a brief summary
of what TAI knew to be the actual
circumstances in the situation.
The major turned to page two,
read a moment, then flicked the
button on his intercom. "Come in
here a few minutes, Jack."
The young lieutenant entered
and shut the door. He saw the top
secret seal and locked the door.
"Sit down. I want you to hear
this. Light up if you want."
This reading of reports aloud to
his adjutant was a habit of the
major's. He felt both of them
gained a more thorough under-
standing than by scanning and di-
gesting the reports individually.
"First a quick refresher on the
general situation," the major said.
"Here's one thaf s been boiled down
to the bone. It's been abridged and
digested — umm — seven times."
The lieutenant grinned and
turned his face quickly away.
'A brief summary of the Troy
— Macedon situation,'" the major
read. "There are five planets in
the Hellenic system. They are
called Troy, Macedon, Monos,
Deutoros and Tritos. Troy and
Macedon, the innermost two, are
fully inhabited. Monos, Deutoros
and Tritos have never been colon-
ized, although Monos is able to
support human life.
"'Tensions exist between Troy
and Macedon for the following
"*(1) They use different gov-
ernmental systems, Troy being a
dictatorship while Macedon is a
"'(2) They have never been
able to reach a mutually acceptable
mutual trade agreement.
" ' ( 3 ) They have been unable to
reach a mutually acceptable agree-
ment for exploiting the remaining
three worlds of their system.
"'They have consistently de-
clined TAI offers of aid and/or
" 'TAI is thus forced to maintain
a strict non-intervention policy
with regard to the Hellenic sys-
The major discarded the sheet.
"Now to current events," he said.
He read through the first page of
the report and looked up. "We
know that on March 13 Troy ad-
vertised for a dictator, identifying
themselves only by a GBS box
number. At the same time Black-
swprd advertised for employment.
A seeming coincidence — but we
also know that Troy placed their
ad alter they saw Blacksword's."
"In other words, they wanted
him," the lieutenant said.
WITH a nod, the major re-
turned to the report. "'On
March 22 A. J. Keplar, Vice-Presi-
dor of the Trojan Secondary Con-
trol Council, arrived on Luna. He
proceeded at once to the Hotel
Starlight and was subsequently ad-
mitted to the room occupied by
G. P. Blacksword, recently resigned
dictator of the planet Alsace, now
"'Blacksword and Keplar re-
mained in conference for two hours
and thirty-seven minutes. At the
end of that time, Blacksword
checked out, and he and Keplar,
accompanied by two armed guards
from the Protectors Union, took a
taxi to the port. All four boarded
the Trojan ship Ilium, but after
a few minutes the protectors came
out again and left, carrying their
gunbelts. Obviously they had been
discharged/ " The major looked up
with a wry face. "Obviously," he
said drily. "This agent loves detail.
Clock-and-dagger stuff goes to your
head sometimes. Ummm . . . The
Ilium was immediately cleared
and blasted away for Troy. Report
He picked up another.
The Ilium landed on Troy on
March 24. A. J. Keplar, Vice-Pres-
idor — ' etc., etc., etc. Here: 'On
March 26 G. Paul Blacksword as-
sumed office as dictator of Troy.
His first act was to accuse Council
Presidor Wood of high treason.
Wood and a hired assassin were
turned over to TAI as the murder-
ers of the ex-dictator of Troy. In his
formal charge Blacksword stated
that no one else on the planet was
implicated in Hunes* murder. Wood
and the assassin were returned to
Earth under guard/"
The major looked up. "Now we
happen to know, Jack, that the de-
cision to murder Hines was voted
upon by the entire council and
carried unanimously. The arrest of
Wood and the assassin was Black-
sword's way of gaining the favor of
the people of Troy. On the other
hand, he had no wish to replace the
"Clever fellow," the lieutenant
The major smiled. "Thafs the
very mildest way of putting it,
Jack. TAI has decided to accept
Wood and let the matter drop. We
haven't any particular desire to ar-
rest the entire council, either. Be-
sides, if we did that now, we'd have
to take Blacksword as well."
"But we have something on him,"
the lieutenant said, "for future
The major nodded and resumed
reading. " 'At the same time, Black-
sword advised the council of his
personal preference for Keplar as
Presidor. The council accordingly
voted Keplar into office.'"
"Sounds like a deal," said the
"Of course. A private deal be-
tween Blacksword and Keplar,
aside from the council's contract
with Blacksword," the major said.
"'Blacksword immediately closet-
ed himself in an all-night session
with Troy's general staff. On
March 2 8 Blacksword, Keplar, and
Foreign Minister Cole spaced to
the planet Macedon aboard the
Ilium. Reports ends.' "
HP HE major began a new page.
■■" "'On Macedon, Blacksword,
Keplar, and Cole met with Mace-
don's King Robert and his diplo-
matic staff. The meetings lasted
three days. At the end of this time,
the Trojan delegation returned to
Troy. Immediately after their de-
parture, King Robert called for a
meeting of the Macedonian gen-
eral staff. Opinion: War between
Macedon and Troy immediately
imminent. Report ends.' "
The major flipped to a new page.
"'In a world-televised speech on
April 6, Dictator Blacksword in-
formed Troy that Macedon re-
mained "insolently adamant" in its
demands, and that he might be
"forced to call on you, the people
of Troy, to lend us your loyal sons
to protect our planet against the
Macedonian aggressors." The
speech was followed by hotly anti-
Macedon demonstrations all over
Troy. Opinion : Immediate war be-
tween Troy and Macedon:
"So if s war," the lieutenant com-
"Hell, we've known that for eight
years. But Blacksword's presence
changes things. The probability
factor of Macedon's emerging vic-
torious was 83 on 20 March. On 8
April, it had dropped to 60. As of
today, it's minus 10 — 60-40 in
favor of Blacksword's winning. Of
course thafs our computer. Mace-
don still ranks higher on the news
services — but they don't have the
information we do."
The lieutenant whistled. "One
"One man. He's that good. He
gets things done, even though his
methods may not be the most hu-
mane or popular. Witness Alsace.
He whipped them into a- power, but
they were so shocked by his meth-
ods that they voted themselves a
The lieutenant nodded. "What
do we do?"
"We — I'll reserve my answer for
a moment, Jack, until I hear your
opinion. What would you say?"
The lieutenant considered the
problem, weighing the factors care-
fully in his mind. "The differences
are strictly between Troy and
Macedon ... no other worlds are in-
volved ... no conceivable imme-
diate danger to TAI . . . both are
grade-C planets ... I'd say we do
nothing. TAI has no grounds for
intervention unless Blacksword —
no, he's too smart. We do nothing."
He looked questioningly at his su-
perior, read the verification of his
decision in the major's eyes.
"Correct. This is none of our
business. We let them have their
war. But we do a little more than
nothing. We watch. As always, TAI
sits back and watches." The major
initialed the report. "Seal this and
forward it to headquarters, Jack.
By the way, are you and Alice do-
ing anything Friday night? How
about some bridge over at our
A T least ten feet long and five
**• feet wide, the desk was empty
of paper or books or letter opener.
There was a calendar on it and a
cigar box and two ashtrays and a
visual communicator. In one cor-
ner was a panel of buttons. The
desk and the big swivel chair be-
hind it gave the impression of big-
ness — bigness and power.
The man behind the desk was
big, too, and it was obvious he
wielded vast power, just as it was
obvious he was accustomed to
power and knew how to wield it.
Judging from what showed
above the top of the desk, he had to
be at least six feet two. There was
a swelling expanse of at least two
feet between his shoulders. His
neck was thick and the head above
it massive and jowly. The face was
slightly red, the hair gray-shot
brown and cut crisply short The
nose was too large even for the man
who wore it. His brows were bushy
and dark, without the streaks of
gray in his hair. Beneath them, very
round, very dark brown eyes glis-
tened and pierced like diamond
His hands were the biggest Gor-
ham had ever seen, and the hairi-
est. The cigar smelled, like all
cigars to Gorham, bad. The bear-
man (man-bear?) behind the desk
seldom took it out of his mouth, but
when he did, with two hairy fingers,
its ends was a wet, thoroughly
As Gorham entered, the cigar
jutted out of the face like a second
"Captain Gorham, I believe,"
said the big man, the cigar bobbing
up and down. "Come on in and sit
down, Captain. I haven't bitten
anyone in years.
Captain Gorham walked to the
desk, hesitated, and sat. The chair
on his side of the desk was a great
deal smaller, its front legs shorter
than the rear ones.
"You'll pardon me for not rising,
Captain, but as you no doubt know,
I'm crippled. And if you're any-
thing like me, you wouldn't deign
to shake hands with a seated man."
"Quite so," Gorham said. He
crossed his legs.
"That isn't true, really," the big
man went on. "My, leg is quite all
right. I don't rise because it gives
me an advantage— makes the other
fellow feel uncomfortable. Uncom-
fortable chair, isrft it?"
"Well, I wouldn't-" '
"Of course it is. Purposely un-
comfortable, and for the same rea-
son. I'd offer you a cigar, Captain
Gorham, but this one is so visibly
distasteful to you I won't waste the
"What can I do for you, Captain
Gorham mustered himself. "Mr.
"Someone should've briefed you,
Captain Gorham. I'm not called
mister. Blacksword suffices. My
father gave it to me in one piece,
but a GBS newscaster took the lib-
erty of changing it to two words.
Sorry to interrupt. Please go on."
The brown eyes drilled into Gor-
ham and he cleared his throat.
Then he caught the twinkle in the
eyes and took another ten seconds.
"If you're quite through attempt-
ing to make me feel ill at ease,
Blacksword, I'd like to talk with
you a few minutes and be on my
way. I have pressing duties else-
Blacksword stared. Then he
snatched the cigar out of his mouth
and fell back in the swivel chair,
laughing. Following the example
set by centuries of swivel chairs,
"Well, I'll just be happy
damned! My very sincere apolo-
gies, Captain—" he broke off into
laughter. "My very sincere apolo-
gies! Just a moment, will you?"
He bent forward across the im-
mense desk and activated the com-
municator. "Bring a comfortable
chair in here, please. And—" he
looked up, one eyebrow raised —
"Captain, I realize you're on duty,
but you won't force a man to drink
alone, will you?"
"Never. Severe breach of eti-
"Two scotches on the rocks,"
Blacksword continued into the box,
beaming at Gorham. "Fast."
E clicked off and leaned back'
with the cigar in his mouth
again. "May as well discuss the
weather, Captain. The s. o. b.
would probably interrupt us right
in the middle of a vital sentence,
"Nice weather you're having
here," Gorham remarked.
"Very. Sorry I had to cut your
man out of it the other day. But
let's face it, Captain, he's a dis-
grace to TAI." Blacksword shook
his head. "Lousiest spy I ever saw."
"I'm afraid I haven't the fog-
giest idea what you're talking
about," Gorham smiled.
"Of course you haven't. Oh, I
don't mind — that's why I fired him
from my staff ostensibly for seduc-
ing one of the girls in the kitchen.
But we all understand each other;
she was paid to seduce him."
Captain Gorham shrugged. "Suit
"My prime aim in life. That's
why I'm keeping my pilot. He's
such a damn fine pilot, I intend to
let him continue reporting to his
superior in TAI. He'll be surprised
when he sees the new uniform I've
designed for him, however. Green
Gorham glanced down at his
green and blue TAI uniform with
a rather sickly grin.
"Ah! I think you'll find that chair
a little better, Captain Gorham.
Thanks, Swahili." Blacksword took
the drinks and handed one to Gor-
ham after the captain had settled
himself into the new chair.
crasies," Blacksword said, smack-
ing his lips. "Always call my serv-
ants Swahili." He leaned back and
rattled the ice in his glass. "I re-
quested a representative of TAI,
Captain Gorham, because I thought
I'd better find out your views con-
cerning the Troy-Macedon situa-
Captain Gorham appeared to
swallow with the wrong tract. "Sir?"
"As far as I'm able to see, there's
no reason here for TAI to inter-
fere," Blacksword explained.
"As far as I can see, Blacksword,
you're correct," Gorham said.
"You're aware of our policy."
"Big brother. Shoulder to cry on.
Helping hand if needed. No inter-
vention unless someone threatens
galactic security. The usual bene-
volent TAI policy. My spies had so
informed me, but I wanted to hear
it from the horse's mouth."
Gorham made a mental note to
demand a thorough security check
of his staff.
"I also wanted to assure you I
have absolutely no intentions of
threatening anyone but the Mace-
donians. As a matter of fact, I'm not
threatening them. They're the
"That's very thoughtful of you,"
Gorham said. "In that case, we shall
go on keeping an eye on you, but
remain outside the dispute. By the
same token, we can't be expected
to lend assistance to the defeated
"One of my personal idiosyn- planet."
"Oh, certainly not. But natural-
ly Earth will. She always comes
through in a pinch. It's almost
worthwhile being defeated, just to
let good old Earth come in and re-
Gorham smiled drily. "Surely
you don't intend being defeated?"
Blacksword snorted. "Captain,
perhaps there's one thing more we
should get straight between us. TAI
will be very happy to know this.
Ifs something your spies don't —
and won't — know. I have abso-
lutely no intention of being de-
feated, because I have absolutely
no intention of fighting."
HP HE big man with the smelly
*■ cigar was ushered into the office
of Vassily Kearney, President of
United Earth. Noting the cigar,
President Kearney delightedly lit
one of his own.
"Have to be very careful with
these," he explained. "Diplomacy,
y'know. Some people don't like
"Thaf s why I haven't a reputa-
tion for diplomacy," Blacksword
informed him. "That a genuine
Kearney nodded, turning the
cigar lovingly between his fingers.
"One of our chief exports."
"How well I know," Blacksword
snorted. "Cost forty dollars each on
Kearney extended a humidor.
"In the White House, they're free
to guests," he beamed.
Blacksword helped himself to a
handful and stuffed them in his
pockets. He carefully stubbed his
own out in the guest ashtray, lit the
Havana, and sent up a cloud to
arouse the envy of any ancient
rocket ship. Kearney stared at the
"I'm well aware of the value of
your time, President Kearney,"
Blacksword puffed, "and I'll try to
take up very little of it. As you've
probably heard, I'm now affiliated
"Oh, yes. As dictator."
Blacksword looked introspec-
tive. "I just had a thought I'm not
going to fire my laundry maid. The
one with the Earth accent and the
pocket transmitter. She doesn't find
out much and she's very nice to
Kearney coughed. "I — ah — un-
derstand Troy and Macedon are
about to go to war." He sounded
Blacksword nodded and leaned
back. "Looks that way," he said.
I'm glad you brought it up. Thaf s
mainly what I wanted to discuss
"Yes. I suppose ifs about the
"In a way. How'd this rehabili-
tation business get started, any-
"Ifs one of our oldest — ah — tra-
ah — laundry maid.
ditions," Kearney said, shaking his
head regretfully. "We're the Mother
Planet, you know, and somehow
we've always continued the — ah
— tradition of aiding conquered
peoples get back on their feet."
"I see," Blacksword sympathized.
"That must cost Earth a pretty
"My dear fellow!" Kearney
cried. "You have no idea! You
should see the World Debt!"
"Then you'd be most happy to
avoid such expenditures whenever
possible. Which explains your spies
being on every inhabited planet in
the Galaxy, I suppose."
The President looked embar-
rassed. "Ah — Mr. Blacksword —
about your -
"My apologies for bringing in
my household affairs," Blacksword
interrupted. "What would you esti-
mate the cost of rehabilitating, say,
Troy or Macedon?"
Kearney threw up his hands.
"Any amount! Depending, of
course, on the amount of destruc-
"A real holocaust," Blacksword
said with a careless wave of his
hand. "Say, forty per cent destruc-
"That can be avoided, Mr. Pres-
ident," Blacksword said.
Kearney stared at him question-
ingly. And hopefully.
"/ can stave off a war. Person-
ally. Alone. I hate to sound pom-
pous, but I doubt seriously if any-
one else could."
Kearney began thanking him on
behalf of all Earth.
LACKSWORD raised a hand.
"This is rather embarrassing,"
he said, wearing his best embar-
rassed look, "but we'll need a small
sum to carry it off. Without a shot
being fired," he went on smoothly,
as Kearney opened his mouth. "A
very small sum, compared to the
cost of rehabilitation. We figure
half a million."
"Good heavens! My dear fel-
"You must remember," Black-
sword pressed, "that Troy is a very
poor planet, but that it will be a
very big war."
*— is that all it would cost?"
"— and — " Blacksword clamped
his lips together and nodded sol-
emnly. The sales job was over.
"Guaranteed: no war!"
Kearney was obviously elated.
But he remembered to be politic.
"We'd need assurance—"
"The Secondary Control Coun-
cil of Troy has authorized me to
write out an agreement to the effect
that, in the event of war, there'd
be no rehabilitation appeal to
Earth. Signed by me, as Dictator of
Troy." His hand came out of his
pocket with a pen and a cigar. He
replaced the Havana lovingly.
Overjoyed, Kearney pulled let-
terheads from a desk drawer.
"Oh, I already have the agree-
ment. Had to clear it with the
Council before I left, of course,"
Blacksword explained with a win-
ning smile. "It lacks only our sig-
"Of course," the President said.
Then, "Of course!"
"Now there's the matter of effi-
cacy," Blacksword said. "I believe
that in a democracy the people
must be consulted on expen-
"Not at all, not at all! Comes out
of petty cash. Goes on the budget
under 'defense' or 'foreign affairs'
or something." He pressed a button
on his desk.
Ten minutes later the draft -
made out to Blacksword personal-
ly — was in his hands and Kearney
was saying, "It has been a pleasure,
"Always glad to do business with
a democracy," Blacksword said,
and he left.
He put a coin in the Newsbuoy
on the corner and requested the
current handicap on the expected
war between Macedon and Troy.
"According to GBS computer,
probability factor of Macedon
emerging victorious is 72.9, Troy's
"Suggest you check with Earth
High Command," Blacksword said,
and walked on. "Ah, that Kearney
drives a shrewd bargain!"
At a bank six blocks away, he
opened an account. The size of his
initial deposit carried him into the
office of the president, who called
the White House for verification of
the half-million-dollar check. The
White House was delighted that
Blacksword was opening an ac-
count on Earth. So was the presi-
dent of the Home Planet Bank and
Trust Co. of Earth.
"A very wise move," he was say-
ing as Blacksword left with a
checkbook. "We have been in busi-
ness for one hundred and seventy-
six years, and in all that time we
Blacksword neither heard nor
cared what the bank had not done
in one hundred and seventy-six
years. He limped out hurriedly.
At the post office on the corner,
he filled out a $500,000 check from
his new book, marked it for deposit
only, and mailed it to the First
Planetary Bank of Luna, to the per-
sonal account of G. Paul Black-
The owner of the First Planet-
ary Bank of Luna, G. Paul Black-
sword, then departed for Troy.
r r , HE lieutenant took Blacksword
■*■ in to the captain, who took him
in to the major, who escorted him
upstairs to the Sector Colonel.
"The Black Sword!" Colonel
McClintock exclaimed. "Come in!
Sit down! What may I do for you?"
Blacksword sat down quickly
and rubbed his leg. "Business call,
Colonel," he growled. He took the
last gratis Havana from his lips and
pointed it at the colonel. "I've got
a complaint to make."
Colonel McClintock nodded and
fitted his hands together. "I see. I've
heard, of course, about Troy's dis-
agreement with Macedon— "
"No doubt. This complaint isn't
against Macedon, Colonel. Ifs
against TAI, in the person of Cap-
tain T. L. Gorham, and it will mean
your eagles, your career, and your
Colonel McClintock raised the
COo content of the room with a
Blacksword leaned forward and
drummed stubby fingers on Mc-
Clintock's desk. "Am I correct in
assuming that the — as you put it
— disagreement between my planet
and Macedon is our own business
and not subject to TAI interven-
"Well, I - Blacksword, I - yes.
And we have kept our hands off."
"Perhaps so. But Captain Gor-
ham has not I told Captain Gor-
ham, in my office, in strictest con-
fidence, that I had absolutely no
intention of fighting Macedon."
Colonel McClintock- nodded.
"Captain Gorham reported that
fact directly to me and I assure you,
sir, the information has not left this
"The information has left this of-
fice, Colonel. In Gorham's fat
mouth. And it did not stay there!
Hold on, I'm far from through. Gor-
ham went straight to King Robert
of Macedon and dropped a hint
that I was not planning to fight. I
suppose he hoped Macedon would
be overjoyed — they didn't really
want to fight either — there'd be no
war, and he'd get the credit. I'd
judge he's bucking for your job, on
"Well," Blacksword went on,
"Macedon was overjoyed, all right.
So overjoyed, they immediately re-
doubled their offensive prepara-
tions, and completely shelved de-
The colonel opened his mouth.
"Dammit, I'm not through yet!"
Blacksword rapped out. "This con-
stitutes illegal TAI intervention.
Whether Gorham was authorized
or not, he represents TAI and he
spilled the beans. And he's your
man. Ten words to your superior,
Colonel, and that chicken farm
you've been planning for your old
age will end right there — in the
planning stage. Along with your
i^ 1 OLONEL McClintock stared.
^ He sagged slowly back in his
chair. It objected squeakily. When
he finally found his voice, it was
scarcely less squeaky than the
chair. "And - and - ?"
Blacksword leaned back com-
placently. "And why have I come
to you, rather than your superior?
Because you and I have had no
trouble to date. You can handle
this easily. First, you drum Gor-
ham out of TAI."
The colonel waited a long mo-
ment, then prompted Blacksword
"Second," came Blacksword's
voice from a billowing cloud of
smoke, "since my feelings are hurt
and my plan endangered, and since
my feelings and my plans come
high, you can assuage my deep in-
jury by about half a million dol-
Colonel McClintock bounced up
in his chair and clamped his hands
on the edge of his desk. "Why,
that's nothing but black—"
-sword," Blacksword cut in.
"Careful with your language, Colo-
nel. My feelings might get even
more hurt. What's the name of your
superior, by the way?"
McClintock fell back in the
chair. "Well, I'll be damned!"
"You'll be worse than that if you
don't dig out a checkbook!" Black-
sword snapped. "And sign this
agreement that the check is bona
fide and you won't try any non-
sense such as stopping payment."
He flipped the paper across the
desk. "And let's have no nonsense
about the money. I can name you
any one of six TAI accounts for six
different exigencies, any one of
which will never feel a mere half
million. Do you need a pen?"
There were a few words bandied
as to where the co-signed agree-
ment should be kept. Blacksword,
of course, limped from Colonel
McClintock's office with both
check and agreement. Colonel Mc-
Clintock left his office shortly after
with a sick headache.
Blacksword sent the check,
marked deposit only, to the Home
World Bank and Trust Co. of
Earth, special delivery. He then
wrote himself a check to the
amount of $500,000 on that bank.
This he marked for deposit only
and dispatched, regular mail, to the
First Planetary Bank of Luna.
He then departed for Troy.
CAPTAIN Gorham bounced to
his feet. "You what?"
"You heard me," Blacksword
told him. "I told Colonel McClin-
tock you dropped a hint to Mace-
don that I'm not planning to fight
them. To save his own skin, he
wrote me a rather large check —
never mind on what TAI emer-
gency account — and immediately
set into motion proceedings for hav-
ing you court-martialed. You've
had it with Terra Alta Imperata,
"You filthy - 1 didn't - you told
him a deliberate lie, Blacksword!
Why? What in the devil have I-"
"Easy on that adrenalin, Captain
Gorham. Sit down. There, that's
much better. I want you to hear
something. It's a recording of our
conversation here a couple of
weeks ago." Blacksword touched, a
"—to interrupt. Please go on,"
came Blacksword's recorded voice.
"If you're quite through attempt-
ing to make me feel ill at ease,
Blacksword, I'd like to talk with
you a few minutes and.be on my
way. I have pressing duties else-
where." That was Gorham's caus-
Blacksword switched off the ma-
chine and regarded Gorham over
"Surely you don't mean that
merely because of that remark,
youVe done all this to me?" Gor-
ham asked incredulously.
"I do. Because of that remark,
plus the results of a very extensive
investigation, I find I like you very
much, Gorham. So I set about
working out a plan to have you
with me, rather than wasting your
nerve and talent with TAI. And,
incidentally, I managed to pick up
a piece of change from TAI, as
well as placing Colonel McClin-
tock in my 'bought man' ledger."
Gorham leaned forward across
Blacksword's massive desk. "And
what's to prevent my taking this
whole story to Earth High Com-
"Nothing — except a little adult
thinking on your part. You're not
TAI material, Gorham. You know
it and I know it. You're damned
fine Blacksword material. Please
allow me to point out that Black-
sword men receive ample oppor-
tunity for travel and excitement,
frequent raises and bonuses, and
the very best of salary. As a mat-
ter of fact, the starting figure I have
in mind for you is considerably
above a TAI captain's pay. Or a
TAI colonel's pay, for that matter.
"And there's another induce-
ment. My men and I accept bribes
as a matter of course, and energeti-
cally solicit such additional emolu-
ment. All I require in return is loy-
alty and a closed mouth." '
Blacksword sat back and relit
the cold cigar. He regarded Cap-
tain Gorham with a very slight
Gorham smiled back. "Quite a
sales pitch. Only it wasn't neces-
sary. But you knew that before you
began, didn't you? I assume the
plan is for me to resign from TAI
Blacksword nodded. He opened
a drawer in his desk and passed a
deposit voucher across the desk.
It showed that the sum of $25,000
had been deposited to the account
of Captain T. L. Gorham.
"First six months in advance,"
Gorham examined the slip of
paper with a raised eyebrow, noted
it was dated two weeks earlier, and
grinned. He buttoned it into his
tunic. He sti
§ • ■
"Gorham reporting for duty as-
T% LACKSWORD laughed aloud.
•*-* "None of that. My name is
Blacksword. And we don't report
that way. I have little use for the
military way of doing things. Keep
Gorham stuck his hands in his
pockets. "Admitting the fact that
you were absolutely sure of your-
self — and me — what if I had
"Oh, that's something I forgot to
mention, Tom. You'll be watched.
And the man who watches you will
be watched. And — well, I hope you
won't mind, but there's the matter
of the recording. This is a composite
of all you said when you were
here before." He flipped the switch
again, and again they listened to
Gorham's voice. "This will give
you an idea of how we do things."
"If you're quite through attempt-
ing to make me feel ill at ease,
Blacksword, I'd like to talk with
you a few mintues and be on my
way. I have pressing duties else-
where. Never. Severe breach of eti-
quette. Nice weather you're having^
here. I'm afraid I haven't the fog-
giest idea what you're talking
about. Suit yourself. Sir? As far as
I can see, Blacksword, you're cor-
rect. You're aware of our policy.
That's very thoughtful of you. In
that case, we shall go on keeping
an eye on you, but remain outside
the dispute. By the same token, we
can't be expected to lend assist-
ance to the defeated planet. Surely
you don't intend being defeated?"
Gorham looked questioningly at
his new employer and shrugged*
Blacksword grinned. "Here's
what my experts have done with
it." He waved at the still-playing
Gorham: Surely you don't in-
tend being defeated?
Blacksword : Of course not. But
I want my methods kept under
glass. This is a check, Captain Gor-
ham. It's drawn to the amount
of twenty-five thousand dollars.
Would you consider . . .
Gorham: Never. Severe breach
of etiquette. You're aware of our
Blacksword: Oh, naturally. But
if I were to mail this check to your
Gorham: Suit yourself. That's
very thoughtful of you. Of course
we can't be expected to go on keep-
ing an eye on you.
Blacksword: Fine. It's been a
pleasure, Captain Gorham. Of
course this little matter will remain
strictly between the two of us.
Gorham : Of course. In that case,
I have pressing duties elsewhere.
Nice weather you're having here.
Blacksword: Ah! Good!
Gorham: I'd like to be on my
Blacksword: All right. Thank
you very much, Captain Gorham.
Gorham stared at him. Then he
burst out laughing. "At least in this
work I'll never have to worry about
the wisdom of my orders or my su-
1/1 ACEDONIAN scouts kept
-*-*-*- Troy under constant surveil-
lance for signs of departing warcraft.
Trojan scouts kept Macedon under
constant surveillance for signs of
departing warcraft. Scouts from
neither planet saw any evidence of
action. Scouts from both planets
were greatly surprised, therefore,
when they were angrily called
The Trojans disembarked to
find themselves under arrest. Their
protests were answered with a very
curt gesture. Their eyes followed
the pointing finger.
There was a satellite in the sky.
No, not a satellite — it was sta-
tionary. A large round steel thing,
perched on nothing, far (a hundred
miles? fifty? how big was the
thing? ) above their capital.
They were all subsequently
court-martialed for gross neglect in
the line of duty. They never under-
stood how the thing had got there.
But it was Macedonian, and it
ended the war before it began.
The assembled members of the
Secondary Control Council of Troy
looked up as Dictator G. Paul
Blacksword limped briskly in.
"Good day, gentlemen. It would
appear negotiations are the order
of the day."
A councilor — Frey — stood and
leveled a finger at him.
"Blacksword, we hired you as
dictator for one reason — to win the
war against Macedon!" he shouted.
There was loud assent.
Blacksword continued to the
podium. He inclined his head to
the seated Keplar and leaned on
the lectern a moment. Then he
picked up the gavel and brought it
down with a crash. The head flew
across the room and rattled into a
corner. He dropped the handle.
"This meeting will come to or-
der! Sergeant-at-arms, you will
eject Councilor Frey unless he sits
down in the next ten seconds."
Blacksword regarded his watch.
The councilor sat and immedi-
ately shot up his hand. Blacksword
chuckled around his cigar.
"Okay, okay. I heard you the
first time. No need repeating. Ob-
viously your memory needs re-
freshing, Councilor. You say this
council hired me for one reason —
to win the war against Macedon.
Mmm? All right.
"One: there is no war against
Macedon, and there wasn't when
I was hired. Two: that's not the
way my contract reads. I was em-
ployed to open trade with Mace-
don and patch up a share-and-
share-alike policy with Macedon
concerning the three unpopulated
worlds of this system. That correct,
Keplar nodded without speak-
"All right And one thing else.
This is for you personally, Coun-
cilor Frey, and to you personally,
every man in this room. I demon-
strated my faith when I threw in
with you in the matter of Colonel
Hines' murder. I remind you in
passing, because you force me to,
that we are all accessories after the
fact in the deliberate hoodwinking
of the authorities in that little mat-
Frey subsided. He disdained the
many exchanged looks on all sides.
"Now then. There's a 'satellite'
in our sky. It's a ship, a spherical
ship, hovering directly over our
capital. Thus it isn't a satellite. It's
loaded with cobalt rockets. They're
aimed at Troy. Whafs worse,
they're aimed at Troy City — right
here, gentlemen, at us. It's a Mace-
donian ship and we have an ulti-
matum — capitulate or go the way
of all atoms.
"The ship broadcast that ulti-
matum and clammed up. It refuses
to acknowledge contact. We are
unable to contact Macedon be-
cause her moon is in the way, and
the ultimatum runs out before the
moon's out of the way. So they
deliberately planned this to negate
all but personal contact. I repeat:
capitulate or else. Are these facts
correct, Mr. Presidor?"
A. J. Keplar nodded unhappily.
"All right. We have one hour and
— umm — seven minutes. Anyone
here not want to capitulate?"
^HERE was a considerable
•■• amount of noise in the council
room. But when Blacksword
banged his fist in lieu of the decapi-
tated gavel and repeated the ques-
tion, there was no answer.
"Sergeant-at-arms, our men are
waiting at the transmitter. Please
inform them that they may go
ahead and read the prepared state-
ment I have already given them."
Blacksword waved meatily at a
dense cloud of smoke. "Now then.
Their only demand is that /, per-
sonally and unaccompanied, go to
Macedon to discuss terms. Is there
any objection to that?"
"So long as you agree to noth-
ing!" Frey cried.
"Gentlemen, you employed me
because you wanted me. I'm an ex-
pert salesman. I guarantee you my
wages against double that sum that
I shall open trade with Macedon
and arrive at an agreement con-
cerning the other three worlds of
this system. I guarantee it against
full forfeiture of my wages. Now.
As of the moment I sign the papers
with Macedon, I resign as Dictator
of Troy. That's the contract. My
job will be done. I want my money
The stormy Frey shouted again.
"And what assurance have we that
you'll carry out your duty, instead
of vanishing with the money?"
"Why, sir, I'm shocked. But
since the thought had previously
occurred to me that that thought
might occur to you, I have pre-
pared an agreement which Presi-
dor Keplar and I shall co-sign.
That way you have me. TAI will
take over if I abscond with your
funds. There are a half-dozen
charges: money under false pre-
tenses, failure to fulfill governmen-
tal contract, so forth, so on."
A. J. Keplar read the mutually
binding agreement aloud. He and
Blacksword signed it, and Black-
sword handed it to him. Councilor
Frey demanded it be photocopied
and filed at once. Blacksword
agreed, with a rueful shake of his
head. Keplar gave him his wages, a
check for $500,000. Blacksword
pocketed it and winked as he shook
"Gentlemen, it has been a pleas-
ure. You will agree with me in a
few days when the Macedonian
ambassadors arrive. Thank you, I
have a ship waiting to take me to
Macedon. Oh, and Councilor Frey,
it's my own ship."
Blacksword tarried on Troy
only long enough to special-deliv-
ery the check to the Home Planet
Bank and Trust Co. of Earth, for
deposit only, to write himself a
check on that bank to the amount
of $500,000, and to mail it to the
First Planetary Bank of Luna, for
Then he departed for Macedon.
Approximately one hour later,
the ever-suspicious Councilor Frey
discovered the very interesting fact
that the agreement Blacksword
had brought to the meeting had
been prepared the day before the
appearance of the Macedonian
THE ports of the Ebon Cutlass
■*■ opened and disgorged two men.
One was the pilot. The other, when
the cigar smoke had cleared in the
Macedonian air, proved to be G.
Paul Blacksword, leaning lightly
on a cane.
A very long, very black, very
chrome-trimmed limousine growled
up alongside Blacksword's allegori-
cally named ship and the chauffeur
leaped out and opened the rear
door. Blacksword, after a couple of
words to his pilot, entered the car.
"I want my ship kept clear and
ready for takeoff," he said to the
Til see to it, Dictator."
"Fine. My pilot will remain with
the ship. When I am ready to leave,
I'll tolerate no folderol about de-
"I'll see to it personally, Dic-
"Thank you very much."
The young soldier tooled the big
car across the port to the group of
"Please start at the left and give
me name, rank and serial number
of those men," Blacks word said as
they approached the party. "I think
I remember them, but I don't want
to miscall any names."
"Yes, sir." Starting with General
Dane and ending with twenty-
three-year-old King Robert II, he
identified the members of the
The car drew up before the
group and Blacksword was out be-
fore the chauffeur could open his
"King Robert!" Blacksword cried
jovially. "It's certainly a pleasure
to see you again!"
The young monarch took Black-
sword's extended hand impersonal-
ly. "Dictator Blacksword," he ac-
knowledged, and turned to his
deputation. "I'm sure you'll re-
Blacksword was already shak-
ing hands down the line, calling
each man by name. They were ob-
viously surprised and impressed
with his "memory."
Reaching the end of the line,
Blacksword swung and peered up
at the sky.
"It is still there, sir," General
Dane told him quietly.
The spherical ship bearing the
Trojan coat of arms hung almqst
directly above them.
"So I see, so I see. Well, gentle-
men, we can certainly ease our-
selves of that burden at once. King
Robert, have I your word that there
will be no last-ditch attempts, once
that warship and its bombs are re-
"We have capitulated, sir. You
have our word."
"Fine. Quite sufficient, of course.
Where's the transmitter?"
"You cannot contact your world,
Dictator. Our moon is in the way
and contact will not be possible for
nearly an hour."
"Yes, I'm aware of that. But it
won't be necessary to contact Troy.
The ship is under my command, as
are all things Trojan."
They accompanied him, ex-
changing looks at his brusque af-
fability, to the transmitting room.
T> LACKSWORD beamed at the
•*-* operator and usurped his
chair. "Blacksword to Ebon Cut-
lass. Blacksword to Ebon Cutlass.
A face appeared hazily on the
"Battleship Ebon Cutlass to
Blacksword. Battleship Ebon Cut-
lass to Blacksword. Commander
Gorham standing by for orders,
The Macedonians did not un-
derstand Blacksword's chuckle.
T. L. Gorham, formerly of Terra
Alta Imperata, had visited Mace-
dori only once. They recognized
neither the name nor the static-dis-
torted outline of his face on the
"Disarm cobalt rockets and pull
away from Macedon at once, Com-
mander. Proceed according to
"I'm sorry, sir. You'll have to
give the code word."
"Very well, Dictator." The misty
"Shall we watch, gentlemen?"
Blacksword said pleasantly, and
King Robert nodded with set lips.
Outside, they stared up as the
spherical craft jetted fire, shivered,
started to move, and vanished in a
soundless rush. Blacksword did not
miss the Macedonian sighs.
They proceeded to the palace in
two cars. Blacksword waved away
suggestions that he rest, shower,
eat, before they began their talks,
and they trooped into the confer-
"If I am not being too imperti-
nent, Dictator, just where was your
ship—" General Dane gestured at
the sky — "based? Our scouts re-
ported no warcraft leaving the sur-
face of Troy."
"That must remain a military
secret, at least until we are through
here, General," Blacksword told
him. "But it did arrive suddenly
and hover directly over the capital
at 7:30 this morning, did it not?
And demand immediate surrender
under pain of instant bombard-
ment with cobalt rocket-bombs?"
"It did," King Robert said.
"Since there would have been
needless and inhumane slaying of
civilians, we chose to—" he hesi-
tated over the word— "surrender."
"That word is equally disagree-
able to me, King Robert. Lefs say
'parley' instead. There has been no
war, and both our worlds want pre-
cisely the same things. It will be
quite satisfactory to Troy to for-
get that the incident occurred. We
can merely state 'the two govern-
ments decided to parley without
the needless horrors of war' in our
The Macedonians registered
"In that event, I am happy we
were unable to contact Troy this
morning," General Dane said.
"This is a gesture on your part, sir,
which we cannot fail to appreciate."
"Fine. Now then. We want mere-
ly three things, gentlemen. As you
know, I am fully authorized by the
Secondary Control Council of Troy
to present our terms, haggle if
I have to, and sign the necessary
papers. Shall we begin?" Black-
sword glanced at his watch.
"As you will," King Robert II
F\RAWING on his cigar, Black-
■■-^ sword turned his head polite-
ly to Robert's left and exhaled.
General Dane, seated on Robert's
left, coughed surreptitiously.
"Well. First, we demand noth-
ing. Not a damned thing. I mean
that. Our expenditures have been
slim and we have lost nothing but
a bit of face. For that loss of face,
or defamation of character, or
whatever you choose to term your
calling us—" Blacksword paused
and frowned slightly as he quoted
from memory — " 'heartless, blood-
sucking aggressors dominated by a
war-mongering council and a mega-
lomaniac dictator' — for such cruel
terms, we shall require restitution.
The only way that can be made is
through advertising. We are under-
taking a galaxy-wide publicity
campaign to clear ourselves."
Blacksword drew in and blew
out a white cloud at the ceiling.
Still regarding the ceiling, he said,
"That was unkind of you, gentle-
men. 'Heartless, blood-sucking ag-
gressors dominated by a warmon-
gering council and a megalomaniac
dictator!' I should like you to know
that is untrue. I completely domi-
nate Troy myself, and the council
has merely carried my words to
The young Macedonian minis-
ter of defense grinned and sobered
quickly, glancing about to ascertain
if he'd been seen. Blacksword
leered at him.
"As I was saying, the public re-
lations campaign. We feel it only
fair that Macedon should assist us
in defraying the costs. And I reiter-
ate that that is the only payment or
recompense, of any kind, we — re-
"And the amount?" Robert II
The chief speaker of Macedon's
parliament leaned forward anxious-
Blacksword shrugged. "We feel
that half a million should cover it."
"Half a million?" ,
"Yes. Million, not billion."
"That sounds reasonable in the
extreme, Majesty," the chief speak-
"I should say!" the minister of
"Agreeable," King Robert said.
"I admit, Dictator, we had expected
far greater demands."
"I told you we demanded noth-
ing. Mmm. I do have instructions
to clear each point as we reach it,
so please prepare the check now,
if you will, and make it out to me.
A token to take home, you under-
Young Robert had appeared to
bridle at Blacksword's pushing, but
the final sentence satisfied him.
"This government pays its debts in
cash," he said with regal pride.
Blacksword nearly dropped his
cigar. "I suppose that will be ac-
ceptable," he said, with a desperate
attempt at unconcerned calm.
The king nodded at the chief
speaker, who sent his secretary
arunning for the money.
Blacksword leaned back with a
sigh. "Now. As to Monos, Deuteros
and Tritos, the three unpeopled
planets of this system."
HE Macedonians leaned for-
ward. Robert II narrowed his
"We have drawn up an agree-
ment concerning their exploita-
tion," Blacksword said. He paused
and peered at them over the tops
of the papers he held. "Monos,
which is fully equipped with oxy-
gen atmosphere and the other re-
quirements for human life, we wish
to be colonized jointly and equally
by Troy and Macedon, thus per-
manently uniting our two worlds,
and forming, with the new world, an
General Dane could not restrain
himself. "Excellent!" he breathed.
"What will be the governmental
system of the planet?" King Robert
asked. "And what flag will she fly?"
Blacksword nodded. "First, we
propose to call her Athena. Sec-
ondly, we have designed a new coat
of arms and flag — here you are. It's
a combination of the symbols of
Troy and Macedon. Thirdly, we
propose she be governed by a Tro-
jan-Macedonian council for two
years. At the end of that time, she
is to be allowed to choose her own
system. That way we won't have
the — 'Athenians' — rebelling."
"Done!" Robert snapped. He
was obviously admiring the
sketches of the Athenian flag and
coat of arms. Blacksword had had
them prepared secretly on Luna
by a professional designer. This
had been done twelve days after
Blacksword's arrival on Troy, five
"Fine. As for Deutoros and Tri-
tos, we propose that a corporation
be formed — Hellenistic Enter-
prises, Inc., perhaps — for exploita-
tion of all natural resource? of the
worlds. The profits will be shared
50-50 by Troy and Macedon. We
may want to sub-contract the ac-
tual work on a percentage basis to
a private concern, but that can be
They gaped at him. Even the.
careful King Robert lost his com-
"The board of directors, of
course," Blacksword went on, glanc-
ing at his watch, "will be composed
of an equal number of members of
the Trojan Council and the Mace-
donian Parliament. I'd suggest you
hire a businessman as president of
Robert II had taken advantage
of the opportunity to regain his out-
ward coolness. "Dictator Black-
sword, Macedon agrees," he said
"Good, good. Now here is a trade
agreement we have drawn up
for your approval." Blacksword
handed him a sheet of paper.
The monarch read it, turned it
over, looked at Blacksword.
Blacksword answered the un-
spoken question. "That's all."
Robert handed the page to the
minister of defense. Eyebrows
peaking, he passed it to General
"'There shall be free trade
among the worlds of Troy, Mace-
don and Athena, according to the
laws set down by Earth High Com-
mand'," he read.
"That's all. I think we're all fa-
miliar with the TAI free-trade
laws. And that, gentlemen, is the
complete article of agreement."
They continued to stare.
ING Robert said at last,
"Is there some point which needs
clarification or adjustment, Majes-
ty?" Blacksword asked innocently.
"This - is - all?"
"Not by a long shot. There's a
lot of work to be done. But this is
<all we need discuss now. The war
did not occur, and our parley is
finished. I am happy its results are
so mutually satisfactory. These
agreements and contracts, when
filed with TAI, are binding for one
hundred years. We will file them
at once, of course. That way there
can be no more disagreement be-
tween Macedon and Troy — not
without TAI intervention, which is
very troublesome and expensive.
And you and I, King Robert, will
have the satisfaction of having
created something which will en-
dure after we are gone. Shall we
They beamed the documents to
TAI headquarters, where they were
photocopied and recorded. The
Trojan-Macedonian alliance was
irrevocably sealed, at least for the
next hundred years.
The Macedonians were disap-
pointed to learn that Blacksword,
five fresh one-hundred-thousand-
dollar bills in his pocket, must leave
at once. Blacksword was sure he
detected tears in the eyes of King
Robert as they clasped hands.
They were standing on the edge of
the spaceport when Blacksword
glanced up and saw the ship.
It was Trojan and it bore the
insignia of the Secondary Control
Council and it was coming down
"Gentlemen, I must hurry," he
snapped, and hurled his bulk, along
with cane and cigar, into the limou-
"Get me to my ship and burn
the paving!" he ordered.
The car hurtled across the tar-
mac, leaving Macedonian officials
scratching their heads.
As the car pulled up near the
Ebon Cutlass, a man ran out of the
communications room and handed
a message to General Dane. He
glanced up at the down-sweeping
ship, then at the departing Black-
sword. He disappeared into the
Blacksword had both feet and
his cane on the ground when the
siren went off. Then the loud-
speaker bawled in General Dane's
voice : "Stop that man! Stop Black-
Blacksword's chauffeur was stu-
pefied for four seconds before he
reached for his pistol. Four seconds
was approximately three too long.
Blacksword, moving twice as fast
as a man his size would be expected
to move, cracked the fellow along-
side the head with the steel-filled
Blacksword dived into his ship
with a last backward look — a kalei-
doscope of down-hurtling Trojan
ship, milling Macedonian digni-
taries, running armed men, and a
command car full of uniforms bear^
ing down on the Ebon Cutlass.
"Gun it!" he yelled, and slammed
The Ebon Cutlass roared off,
leaving behind some very angry
men of two different worlds with
some very interesting things to say.
COMMUNIQUE horn Black-
sword to Gorham;
Well done! Get our "Trojan war-
craff and out "Macedonian war-
craff* and all those "cobalt bombs"
back to base and remove the fake
insignia. They both surrendered to
each other without knowing it till
too late! They are now hopelessly
allied, with no possibility of war
for at least a century.
A bonus has been deposited to
your bank account, "Commander."
T A I
TO: G. L. Dienes
Terra Alta Imperata
The business with Macedon and
Troy went off very smoothly, and
we even recruited a new man. For-
mer TAI captain.
I note from recent news releases
that both Troy and Macedon were
so disgusted with the way their re-
spective governments were hood-
winked by one Blacksword, a com-
pletely unscrupulous blackguard,
they have fired the whole crew and
become democracies, both of them.
It is my understanding they also
plan to inflict this form of govern-
ment on the to-be-colonized world,
Three new democracies join the
Why in the name of heaven it is
considered so damned important
that every world eventually adopt
Earth's governmental system, I'm
sure I don't know. This observa-
tion following dealings with such
men as your boss, President Kear-
It does my heart good to know
that men like you are around to
protect men like him from the un-
scrupulous machinations of men
But so be it, and my services re-
main available for proselytizing via
showing them the fallacies of to-
Since my salary is so ridiculous-
ly inadequate, and since the Tro-
jan affair entailed such extensive
expense as travel, recruiting, etc.,
please forward, in the usual way,
expenses totaling $500,000 post
haste. No swindle sheet attached.
Too busy to keep one.
G. Paul Blacksword
Top Secret Agent # 1
DICTATOR desires employment,
preferably permanent, in similar
capacity. Will accept opportunity
to establish own circumstances.
Seven years, five months experi-
ence. Last position terminated at
request of populace. Box 702 GBS
A. J. OFFUTT
SORRY, SOMEBODY LOST OUR HEAD
A publishing business parable goes something like this: A publisher,
irritated by there never having been a book free of errors from Gutenberg
on down, hired 364 proofreaders to proofread the 364 pages of a book
he was publishing. When the book had been proofread 364 times and
finally came off the press, he held it proudly and said: "At last, the per-
And then he noticed that the title on the cover was misspelled.
We don't claim that the October issue of this magazine could match
that exorbitant care, but we can indeed match the catastrophe on that cover.
To all the letter-writers and phoners who brought to our attention the fact
that "Science Fiction" and "35#" appeared on the October cover, we can
but explain that we went back to a plant that used to do our engraving, but
which unfortunately still had our old logotype. Result: chaos.
The price is surprinted on this issue, since two covers are always printed
together, and since publishing economics just won't allow a magazine of
this size to be manufactured at anything like 35#.
Financially, the error hurts badly, but there is a possible plus: we can
now find out if "Science Fiction" on the cover helps or hurts sales.
(Continued from page 7)
that we are unable to comment on,
except to wonder why not sons as
well, and fathers?
A marked copy of the Pittsburgh
Sun-Telegraph points to a feature
called "The Squirrel Cage" by
Douglass Welch reporting that
"The dour and insolent machine
which dispenses hot canned foods
in the building in which we work
gave away all its baked beans
(with pork) and all its frankfur-
ters and sauerkraut the other day;
and our fellow-employees were ju-
bilant. The following morning the
machine which stands beside it —
a big yellow monster with a single
red baleful eye — suddenly gave
up all its hot coffee, like an ex-
cited puppy. This occasioned a
roar of laughter from the shallow-
thinking humans who saw it; but
we didn't laugh. To us it seemed
more sinister than funny. 'Oh,
come, Welch/ we can already hear
you saying, *these are merely iso-
lated instances. These are not sig-
nificant.' All right. A machine
working for the federal govern-
ment in Chicago has been sending
checks for $24,785.06 to an elder-
ly couple in Payallup, Wash. This
couple is entitled to receive only
$147.80 a month in old-age and
survivor's-insurance payments. The
machine types out the right ad-
dress but persists in misspelling the
last name 'Evans' as 'Evcnx.' Evans
has sent back three checks and a
protesting letter with each of them.
And what happens? Another ma-
chine in Chicago receives the
checks and reads the letters with a
wide, knowing smile — and does
nothing ... So the bean machine
gives away beans; the coffee ma-
chine gives away coffee; and the
check-writing machine gives away
money. Somewhere in the United
States, disguised possibly as a sim-
ple gum-dispenser on a subway
station platform, is the super-brain
machine which is directing all
this." In this column, copyright
1958 by King Features Syndicate
Inc., and perhaps others we have
not seen, Mr. Welch is a valued
joiner of our outnumbered posse,
for The Statistical Abstract of the
United States, 1955 edition, says
George H. Scithers, Stanford, Cal.,
adds up 104,219 more wives than
husbands in the U.S. (Widows and
divorcees are tabulated separate-
ly.) And John Harper, Maple
Shade, N. J., warns that everybody
now alive will be gone, as far as
we know, by 2075 at the latest —
an unprecedented 2V£ billion
deaths — and urges us to reproduce
to offset the slaughter.
We say no. Human cells are
completely replaced every six
years. One day all those discarded
cells are going to get together and
leave no room for cars, vanished or
otherwise, aliens, machines, or sur-
— H. L. GOLD
in your neighborhood
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General Law of Dynamic Negatives
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except the ones you particularly
want to keep."
S. F. GIFT
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Actual Size 3" x 4"
YOUR NAME HER!
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